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Iowa is winter home to thousands of Bald Eagles

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013 11:44 a.m. CDT

Bald eagles get their day — or two — in the sun this weekend. Wildlife workers and volunteers will have their eyes on the skies, as they tally and report sightings of bald eagles, across the country.

The Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey has been held for over 30 years, coordinated by the Army Corps of Engineers. For flexibility, surveyors have January 2-16 to finish their non-overlapping routes, though the target dates are January 11 and 12.

“We counted over 3,000 eagles last year. We are coming up with some interesting patterns here in Iowa,” notes Stephanie Shepherd, wildlife diversity biologist with the Iowa DNR.  “Normally, our highest concentration of eagles would be along the Mississippi River; concentrated below the dams where there is open water. But we actually had higher counts in 2010 and 2011 on the Des Moines River, and then back to the Mississippi in 2012, but numbers were a little suppressed. We have the numbers. They are just spread out a little more around the state.”

Shepherd says those trends point out the changing dynamics of Iowa’s winter eagle populations; which have streamed upwards over the last few decades. “Iowa is a terrific place for winter eagle watching. We generally have the best concentrations along our bigger waterways, in areas where water is open.”

Besides the scientific data provided by the midwinter survey, eagle viewing is embraced by outdoor Iowans each winter. Communities up and down the Mississippi River, and several on larger inland streams, host Bald Eagle Days with indoor displays…and outdoor viewing spotting scope positions for watching our nation’s symbol.

“The bald eagle is really a fascinating bird,” underscores Shepherd. “They are a lot of fun to watch and listen to, with their social behavior in the winter.” 

For bald eagle events and sponsors, go to www.iowadnr.gov.

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