Eagles in Iowa (With Pictures)

Eagles in Iowa (With Pictures)

Iowa, a state more commonly associated with rolling fields and corn, is also an extraordinary haven for eagle enthusiasts. In this article, we delve into the world of eagles in Iowa, focusing particularly on the majestic Bald and Golden Eagles.

These raptors, revered for their strength and beauty, find a welcoming habitat in Iowa’s diverse landscapes. From the towering bluffs along the Mississippi River to the tranquil waters of its myriad lakes and rivers, Iowa provides an ideal backdrop for these birds of prey.

Eagles, once on the brink of extinction in the USA, have made a remarkable comeback, thanks in part to dedicated conservation efforts. Today, the sight of a Bald Eagle soaring high above the Mississippi or perched majestically atop a tall tree is not uncommon in the Hawkeye State.

This resurgence is a testament to the resilience of nature and the success of environmental stewardship. Our journey will take us through the best spots in Iowa to witness these magnificent birds, explore their habits and habitats, and understand the role they play in the state’s ecosystem.

Join us as we explore the soaring world of Iowa’s eagles, a symbol of natural majesty and ecological triumph.

Bald Eagle

  • Scientific name: Haliaeetus leucocephalus
  • Life span: 20-30 years
  • Size: 2.5 to 3 feet (0.7 to 0.9 meters)
  • Weight: 6.6 to 13,8 lbs (3 to 6.3 kg)
  • Wingspan: 66 to 96 in (165 to 244 cm)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Breeding and common

The Bald Eagle, a symbol of majesty and strength, reigns as one of North America’s most recognizable birds of prey. Its geographical range spans from Alaska and Canada, across the contiguous United States, to northern Mexico.

This magnificent raptor is distinguished by its striking appearance: adults boast a distinctive white head and tail that starkly contrast with their chocolate-brown bodies and wings. The intense, piercing yellow eyes of the Bald Eagle are a captivating feature, complementing its large, hooked, yellow beak.

Juvenile Bald Eagles lack the iconic white markings and possess a mottled brown and white plumage until they mature, typically around their fifth year. These birds command attention with their regal posture and powerful presence, whether perched in solitude or soaring gracefully through the sky.

A close up photo of a Bald Eagle sitting on a tree stump

In the wild realms of Iowa, the Bald Eagle engages in intricate nesting behaviours, reflecting its majestic status. These birds select towering trees near water bodies to build their nests, often returning to the same location annually.

The nests, large and robust, are architectural marvels made of sticks and lined with softer materials. Both partners contribute to the construction, with the female primarily arranging the interior. These structures can become massive over years of reuse, symbolizing the bird’s enduring presence in the landscape.

The Bald Eagle’s preference for high vantage points in their nesting sites underscores their keen awareness and mastery of their domain.

The Bald Eagle, a powerful symbol soaring through the Iowa skies, exhibits a diet befitting its status. Preferring fish, these raptors exhibit remarkable fishing skills, swooping down with precision to pluck their prey from the waters. However, their diet is opportunistic and varied, including waterfowl and carrion.

This adaptability in feeding habits showcases the Bald Eagle’s prowess as a top predator, playing a crucial role in the ecological balance. Their hunting and scavenging behaviours, often occurring near rivers and lakes, are a testament to their survival instincts and the raw beauty of nature in action.

A close up photo of a Bald Eagle gliding over the water

The conservation story of the Bald Eagle in Iowa is a compelling tale of resilience and human impact. Once teetering on the brink of extinction due to DDT poisoning and habitat loss, concerted conservation efforts have led to a remarkable recovery. The banning of DDT and protective legislation under the Endangered Species Act have been pivotal.

The Bald Eagle’s resurgence is a testament to successful environmental stewardship, mirroring a growing societal commitment to preserving natural heritage. This conservation journey highlights the interconnectedness of human actions and wildlife wellbeing, with the Bald Eagle’s revival symbolizing hope and the potential for recovery.

Golden Eagle

  • Scientific name: Aquila chrysaetos
  • Life span: 30 years
  • Size: 33 inches (83 cm)
  • Weight: 6.4 to 13.2 lb (2.9 to 6 kg)
  • Wingspan: 70 to 90 in (180 to 230 cm)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Migratory and rare

The Golden Eagle, a symbol of freedom and wild spaces, is a widespread resident of the Northern Hemisphere, with its range covering North America, Europe, and Asia. In North America, these birds are found from Alaska and Canada to northern Mexico, thriving in open and semi-open landscapes.

The Golden Eagle’s plumage is predominantly dark brown, but it is the golden-brown feathers on its head and neck that give this bird its name and an air of elegance. Adult Golden Eagles exhibit a faint banding on the tail and boast impressive, broad wings. Their legs are feathered down to the toes, a characteristic feature of true eagles.

Juveniles differ slightly in appearance, displaying white patches on the wings and tail. The dignified demeanour of the Golden Eagle, combined with its powerful flight and striking appearance, makes it a captivating subject for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike.

A close up photo of a Golden Eagle landing

The Golden Eagle, a less frequent but revered resident of Iowa’s skies, exhibits a unique approach to nesting in other parts of North America. Preferring solitude, these birds often choose cliff faces, remote trees, or even human-made structures for their nests.

Their nesting sites, typically in rugged terrains, reflect the Golden Eagle’s affinity for the wilder, untamed aspects of nature. The nests are large, built with sticks, and often reused and added to each year, growing in size and complexity.

This behaviour not only demonstrates the bird’s strong territorial instinct but also its deep-rooted connection to a particular locale, revealing a fascinating aspect of their life cycle.

In the open landscapes of Iowa, the Golden Eagle’s diet reflects its status as a formidable predator. These birds feed primarily on small to medium-sized mammals, showcasing their adept hunting skills in open terrains. Rabbits, ground squirrels, and other rodents often comprise their prey.

This predatory behaviour underlines the Golden Eagle’s role in the ecological balance, controlling rodent populations. Their hunting strategy, involving high soaring and sudden, swift stoops to capture prey, is a breathtaking display of agility and power, illustrating the raw beauty of the natural world.

Golden Eagle

The conservation history of the Golden Eagle is complex and challenging. While not as critically impacted as the Bald Eagle, the Golden Eagle has faced threats from habitat loss and human interference. Efforts to conserve this majestic bird involve habitat protection and monitoring of populations.

The Golden Eagle’s elusive nature and preference for remote habitats make conservation efforts particularly challenging, requiring a deep understanding of its ecological needs. The ongoing commitment to preserving these magnificent birds highlights the importance of biodiversity and the need for continued vigilance in conservation practices.

Where to find Eagles in Iowa

Iowa, with its majestic rivers and scenic landscapes, is a haven for eagle enthusiasts. The state hosts both Bald and Golden Eagles, with Bald Eagles being more common. These majestic birds are best observed in the winter months, particularly from November to March, when their numbers significantly increase.

Here are four great areas in Iowa for eagle watching:

  • Lansing, Iowa: Located in northeastern Iowa, near Bluff Country, Lansing offers stunning views of eagles soaring over the Mississippi River. Visitors can drive up Mt. Hosmer to enjoy breathtaking views and eagle sightings, especially near the lookout area.
  • Effigy Mounds National Monument: Also in Allamakee County, this national monument offers more than just historical intrigue. It’s situated parallel to the Mississippi River, providing an excellent opportunity for eagle watching. The area’s rich history and natural beauty make it an ideal spot for nature lovers.
  • Pikes Peak State Park: A year-round favourite for eagle enthusiasts, this park offers a lookout over the Mississippi River, where Bald Eagles are often seen, particularly during the winter months due to their migratory patterns.
  • Le Claire, near Lock and Dam 14 on the Mississippi River: This area is particularly popular for eagle watching. Each winter, hundreds of Bald Eagles can be seen here, making it a must-visit spot for birdwatchers and nature lovers. The eagles are drawn to this area due to the abundant food supply provided by the river.

When planning your eagle watching trip in Iowa, it’s important to dress warmly for the winter conditions and bring binoculars for the best viewing experience. Many of these locations offer more than just eagle watching, with scenic views and historical significance adding to the allure.

Whether you’re a seasoned birdwatcher or a casual nature enthusiast, observing these magnificent birds in their natural habitat is a truly memorable experience.


These majestic birds, soaring high over the state’s rivers and landscapes, symbolize the beauty and strength of the natural world.

Their increasing numbers and visible presence across Iowa’s skies are encouraging signs of environmental recovery and a reminder of our ongoing responsibility to protect and cherish these magnificent creatures and their habitats.

As we continue to witness their awe-inspiring flights, eagles in Iowa stand as symbols of hope and the successful harmony between wildlife and human stewardship.

Join the discussion