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State of Iowa

Eastern Goldfinch Carduelis tristis ©Mdf Wikimedia

Birding Iowa

Located between two major river systems in the heart of the upper Midwest, Iowa offers a bit of everything for birders. Many species are at the limit of either their east-west or north-south range in this state.

Along Iowa's eastern border, formed by the Mississippi River, one can find a typical sampling of the species found in eastern North America. The Mississippi Flyway is a major migration route for waterfowl, hawks, shorebirds, and most passerines. Extensive bottomland forest is typical. The eleven locks and dams on the Mississippi each have large pools above them that accommodate great concentrations of waterfowl. Vagrant winter Gulls are found quite routinely along the river. Large numbers of Bald Eagles winter here, with this species now ranging over the entire state. The western border of the state is formed by the Missouri River. The Loess Hills, ranging north along the river, are a unique geological feature, and attract many western species not found in other parts of the state. The Missouri flyway is the primary migration route for Snow and Ross's Geese, as well as many waterfowl.

Historically a prairie state, Iowa is now extensively farmed. The most recently glaciated prairie pothole region, in the Northwest part of the state, is home to many waterfowl, gulls, terns and wetland birds. Its extensive marshes and pools attract shorebirds in migration.

The steep bluffs and hills in the Northeast Palaeozoic Plateau are the best areas to find Golden Eagle, Ruffed Grouse and Pileated Woodpeckers.

The most comprehensive and valuable website for Iowa birders is the Iowa Birds and Birding Page, sponsored by the Iowa Ornithologists' Union. It includes information about the IOU, publications available, the state Rare Bird Alert (Iowa Birdline); archives for the state listserv, and extensive list of e-mail addresses of birders who are willing to assist others, birding sites around the state, the official Iowa checklist, activity of the Records Committee, local birding groups, links to other Iowa websites, and more.

Top Sites

Hitchcock Nature Centre Hawkwatch


Satellite View

There is an annual hawkwatch at the Hitchcock Nature Centre, which is located in the Loess Hills near Crescent. It records an average of slightly over 10,000 hawks, eagles, and vultures of 18-20 different species every fall. Large flights of waterfowl and other avian species also occur there. It is certainly a site of national significance and has been listed among the top hawkwatches in North America by Wildbird magazine and was Iowa's first IBA.


Number of Species

Number of bird species: 427

As of November 2016


iGoTerra Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web

Useful Reading

Birds of an Iowa Dooryard

Althea R Sherman 270 pages, 16 photos. University of Iowa Press 1996

ISBN: 0877455686

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Iowa Birdlife

(Bur Oak Original) Gladys Black Paperback - 176 pages (October 1992) Iowa State University Press

ISBN: 0877453934

Buy this book from NHBS.com

The Iowa Breeding Bird Atlas

(Bur Oak Original)Laura Spess Jackson, Carol A. Thompson, James J. DinsmorePaperback (November 1996) Iowa State University Press

ISBN: 0877455619

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Useful Information

State Bird

Eastern Goldfinch Carduelis tristis


Audubon Society in Iowa


Contact numbers and a list of local chapters

Big Bluestem Audubon Society


A local chapter of Audubon in Iowa with details of committee, newsletters etc…

Cedar Rapids Audubon Society


The Cedar Rapids Audubon Society (CRAS) is a chapter of the National Audubon Society. When you join the National Society, you become a member of the Cedar Rapids chapter. Your membership includes a subscription to the Audubon magazine and also the chapter newsletter (Nature Trails). You will also receive mailings of national, regional, state and local conservation issues and events…

Dubuque Audubon Society


Welcome to the Dubuque Audubon Society Online! Please explore and learn more about the Audubon Society, birding, wild birds, conservation and more. Join the DAS or pick up a bird list to begin birding on your own. It all begins here…

Iowa Audubon


The Mission of Iowa Audubon is to identify, protect and restore Iowa's bird habitats, to educate Iowa's citizens toward a greater level of conservation awareness, and to promote enjoyment and greater pride in Iowa's natural ecosystems, birds, other wildlife…

Iowa City Bird Club


About Eastern Iowa Birds, Birders, local bird sightings, places to bird, etc.. This is a very active group with field trips at least once per month, often more…

Iowa Ornithologists Union


The Iowa Records Committee, a standing committee of the Iowa Ornithologists Union, is charged with evaluating and voting on records of rare birds recorded in the state and extensive info on birding around the state of Iowa, where to bird, contacts, etc…

Iowa Purple Martin Organization

Website from June 2013

The Iowa Purple Martin Organization is dedicated to the protection, preservation and promotion of the purple martin species throughout Iowa and surrounding states. We strive to increase the martin population through education, raising public awareness, research, recruiting new martin landlords, best landlord practices, restoration of housing, offering connections for landlords through iamartin.org and in utilizing a mentoring program.

Loess Hills Audubon Society


The Loess Hills… stretch from the town of Westfield in central Plymouth County, Iowa, to just south of the Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge in central Holt County, Missouri. Between those two points, the Loess Hills form a north-south band of varying width approximately 200 miles long…

Macbride Raptor Project


The Macbride Raptor Project or MRP is a non-profit organisation devoted to the preservation of Iowa's raptors and their natural habitats. They achieve their goals through the rehabilitation of sick and injured raptors, educational programs for the public, and field research of Iowa's native birds of prey…

Nature Conservancy in Iowa


Well presented site but they should look at some other state NC sites - and copy their use of stunning photographs. The Nature Conservancy of Iowa is focused on the long-term protection and stewardship of the natural communities found throughout our state. We strive to balance human needs and ecological health. The Iowa Chapter was founded in 1963, since then we have purchased over 6,000 acres of significant landscapes. We currently own 30 preserves, lease two and participate in the management of one. We also hold conservation easements on two additional properties…

Northern Iowa Prairie Lakes Audubon Society

11730 Highway 276, Spirit Lake, IA 51360 - To create “A Culture of Conservation” within the chapter area by promoting enjoyment, protection and restoration of northern Iowa’s ecosystems, focusing upon birds, other wildlife and their habitats…

Prairie Rapids Audubon Society


The mission of Prairie Rapids Audubon shall be to engage in programs that provide members of the public education about and appreciation for birds; increased knowledge and awareness of birds and birding; and conservation, preservation and restoration of natural bird habitat for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity.

Quad City Audubon Society


Welcome to the Quad City Audubon Society. A chapter of the National Audubon Society, we are an association of local volunteers whose primary concerns are birds and the habitats that sustain them…

Raptor Resource Project


The Raptor Resource Project is a nonprofit, 501c3 dedicated to restoring the Midwest`s population of Peregrine falcons and other raptors. Welcome to our website…

Rolling Hills Audubon Society

1200, 317 6th Av, Des Moines, IA 50309, 515-288-6041 - Thomas Reavely, President

Southeast Iowa Audubon Society

2197 236th Blvd, Fairfield, IA 52556, 641-472-9795 - Diane Porter, President

Tallgrass Prairie Audubon Society

Facebook Page

The Tallgrass Prairie Audubon Society is a private, nonprofit corporation affiliated with the National Audubon Society. The chapter’s approximately 150 members live in east-central Iowa, primarily in Jasper, Poweshiek, Marshall, and Tama counties. The mission of Audubon is “to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats.” To this end, the Tallgrass Prairie chapter sponsors public programs, educational activities, nature walks, bird watching outings, and a newsletter. 9 College Park Road, Grinnell, IA 50112, 641-236-7309 - Russell Tabbert, Vice President

Upper Iowa Audubon Society

24589 70th St, Cresco, IA 52136 - Connie Hvitved, President


Abbreviations Key: See the appropriate Continent Page (or Country Page of those used on country sub-divisions)

DeSoto NWR


Satellite View

DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge was established on March 12, 1958 under the Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929 for "…use as an inviolate sanctuary or for other management purposes, for migratory birds." The refuge lies in the wide, fertile plain of the Missouri River Valley in a former bend of the Missouri River about 25 miles north of Omaha, Nebraska…

Hitchcock Nature Area - Honey Creek

Facebook Page

Satellite View

Nestled in the southern half of the Loess Hills, Hitchcock Nature Center (HNC) is a former YMCA camp that has a become a county park and is managed by the Pottawattamie County Conservation Board (PCCB); HNC provides spectacular views of the Loess Hills and the adjoining Missouri River Valley….

Iowa State Forests


Iowa's state forest system consists of 4 major and 6 smaller units totaling 40,706 acres. The Division of Forestry pursues an active land acquisition program with a goal of 250,000 acres by the year 2020…

Neal Smith NWR


Satellite View

The mission of the Refuge is to actively protect, restore, reconstruct and manage the diverse native ecosystems of tallgrass prairie, oak savanna, and sedge meadow. These were the native habitats existing on the Refuge’s 5600 acres prior to Euro-American settlement. …

Sugar Creek Audubon Sanctuary


Satellite View

Sugar Creek Audubon Nature Sanctuary is owned by the Tallgrass Prairie Audubon Society, the local Audubon chapter, and Jacob Krumm Nature Preserve is owned by the Jasper County Conservation Board.

Watchable Wildlife of Northwest Iowa


Interactive Map - Northwest Iowa is a hidden treasure amid the country's midsection. We have great areas to explore. While we don't have mountains or oceans, Iowa abounds with special and unique areas. Come with us to explore some of the special highlights. Whether you are a resident or a visitor to the area, start with one of these great spots, and you won't want to stop! There is something special in our backyard…

Forums & Mailing Lists


Mailing List

To subscribe to list: Through Website

The Iowa birds listserve has become a popular means to share information about what is going on around the state. For those unfamiliar with listserves, the concept is simple. You subscribe to the list through e-mail and everyone on the list receives copies of messages sent to the list. If you just want to view the messages, you are welcome to visit the archives…

Guides & Tour Operators

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Birding Pal


Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…

Trip Reports

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…


Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

2005 [06 June] - Jan Landsverk - Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado.


My wife and I spent one month in USA from June 24. We landed in Denver Colorado where a Chevrolet waited on us. It served us so well all the 9600 km – no problems, no accidents. We had a great time in every respect, also due to the fact that the weather was on our side – almost no rain for a month. But there was a slight “problem”, it was too hot, as a heat wave followed us part of the time, even at high altitudes. Denver is situated on about 1650 meter, and there we had around 40 degrees (104 Fahrenheit) for several days, beating all the previous records.

Places to Stay

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Bluebird B&B


The Bluebird B&B is nestled by a wooded creek valley in central Iowa, near the Des Moines River. Our home was built in 1918, and is furnished with family heirlooms and antiques. You'll find our Bed & Breakfast to be a unique lodging experience. Carmen's collection of vintage clothing and accessories is on display everywhere, and nature`s birds are just outside the window!


Hitchcock Nature Area Hawkwatch

Observatory Facebook Page

Satellite View

Every September through December, bird of prey enthusiasts gather at Hitchcock Nature Area to observe and count thousands of hawks, eagles, and vultures that migrate south past Pottawattamie County's Hitchcock Nature Area…


Stempel Bird Museum


Dr. Guido Louis Stempel, M.D. (1836 – 1917) was a self-made authority in the areas of ornithology and entomology. Then and now, his bird and butterfly collections were considered to be the best in the state of Iowa…


Iowa Voice


A photoblog celebrating birding and other nature observation in Iowa, Illinois and the Midwestern United States…

Rick Hollis - Thoughts of an Iowa Birdwatcher


These will be random thoughts about birds, birders, birdwatching, feeders, reptiles, wildflowers and nature in general. I will specifically discuss conservation interests, and other things as the mood hits me. The topics will probably lean a bit towards of interest to Iowa, as that is where I live… Not being updated as of 2011 - but still worth a look!

Other Links

Archives for the Iowa Rare Bird Alert


Occasionally readers wonder what great birds they missed while out of town. These archives will let you peruse the rare bird alerts for the past few years.

Henslow's Sparrow in the Midwest


This web site provides monitoring and research information on Henslow's Sparrow Ammodramus henslowii in the midwestern United States…

Iowa Rare Bird Alert


Out & About - John Pearson


Co-author of The Guide to Iowa's State Preserves and essayist in Deep Nature: Photographs from Iowa and A Watershed Year: Anatomy of the Iowa Floods of 2008, all published by the University of Iowa Press.