Winter Bird Watching and Photography

Having problems finding activites to keep you occupied during the winter?  Give winter bird watching a try!!  There are many species of birds that migrate to the open waters in Iowa during the colder moths of the year.

"Fat Boy" takes off at Lock and Dam 16 near Muscatine

“Fat Boy” takes off at Lock and Dam 16 near Muscatine

The Lock and Dam system along the Mississippi River has many great areas that are set up for watching and photographing the Bald Eagle populations near the open waters that the dams create.  Many have elevated platforms, and large wooded areas that the eagles like to perch in.  The eagles migration starts as the river starts to freeze over in the north, and usually peaks in January in Iowa.  Counts are generally in the 40-100 individual range during this time at each Lock location and the general area around it.

Bald Eagle in flight

Bald Eagle in flight

The Mississippi River Valley isn’t the only area that these majestic birds can be found.  Any area that has water that isn’t frozen and a healthy fish population will likely have some Bald Eagles near it.  Saylorville Reservoir has a healthy population, as do the Skunk, Cedar, Missouri, and Des Moines River Valleys.

Lunch in the Trees

Don’t go out unprepared for bird watching. It is important to dress in layers, and also smart to keep some hand and feet warmers available, as you will be out in the elements.

But don’t limit yourself to large birds of prey.  There are many different “backyard” birds that stick it out through the harsh winters in Iowa, including the Cardinals, Blue Jays, as well as some varieties of Finches.  Many times these birds can be observed and photographed from the warmth of your home, or very near to it.  Also, you may be able to spot some species of ducks, and also snow geese out in the fields and near water.

If you are very lucky, you also might be able to spot a Snowy Owl, but they are very difficult to find many years.

There are plenty of things to do to keep busy over the winter months in Iowa, just make sure that you dress appropriately for the weather you will be facing.

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