The Raptors of Iowa
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: University of Iowa Press
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Nature’s Teacher by Rich Patterson
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About A dozen people gathered at the Cedar Rapids Indian Creek Nature Center one warm May morning in the late 1980s. Equipped with walking shoes and binoculars, they set out birding under the guidance of Jim Landen-berger. Although I had organized the walk, I’m only a mediocre birder at best, The group f_iltered through a woodland bordering Indian Creek and emerged ...
The Intensity of Its Gaze by Dean M. Roosa
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Aldo leopold said that he could not live without wilderness. I share that feeling about raptors. I would feel cheated had I not been able to capture and band migrating hawks or climb to raptors’ nests and hold a helpless chick that would become a skilled predator. All youngsters so inclined should have the chance to see what I saw, capture and band hawks, enter into a hunter’s liai-...
The Raptors of Iowa by James F. Landenberger
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These common summer residents arrive in Iowa early in March; most are gone by mid October. They nest sparingly, mainly in south central Iowa. They form communal roosts, principally on wooded bluf_fs along major streams; some such roosts have been in continual use for decades. Carrion feeders, they are often seen feeding on roadkill and seem to be one of the few bird species that ...
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The osprey is an uncommon migrant, appearing in Iowa from early April to mid May and again in August and September. A f_ish feeder, it depends on open water to initiate migration. Records are becoming more frequent in re-cent years due to introduction attempts by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and many conservation partners. Iowa’s f_irst nesting attempt was ...
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Our most elegant raptor is now of accidental occurrence in Iowa. It once nested sparingly in the state but disappeared prior to the twentieth century. With its long, forked, barn swallow–like tail, it is unmistakable. There have been three records in modern times: Black Hawk County in 1992, Cerro Gordo ...
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This graceful bird now regularly occurs in Iowa, being reported each year. It returned in 19seven.oldstyle8 after an absence of some seventy years. There are historic records of nesting in Iowa; in modern times, it has nested in Polk County in 1995 and succeeding years, and there is recent evidence of probable nesting in ...
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What a remarkable story surrounds our national symbol in Iowa! The bald eagle seems to have disappeared from Iowa as a nesting species around 1905, reappearing in Allamakee County in 19seven.oldstyleseven.oldstyle. Since then it has spread statewide, with the most recent nest count being approximately three hundred nests in ninety-three counties. It congregates near open-water sites along larger riv-...
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There is no mistaking the characteristic f_light of the northern harrier. It f_lies low over grasslands, quartering section by section. The white rump patch is a def_initive f_ield mark. A fairly common migrant, the harrier is most frequently spotted from mid March to mid April and again from mid September to mid October. It prefers native prairie for nesting; both habitat and bird are rare in ...
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This exciting accipiter is a common migrant, seen in Iowa from mid March to mid May. It is an uncommon winter resident and apparently a very rare nester, with newly f_ledged young being seen in western Iowa and in Hardin and Lucas counties in recent years. It may have been a fairly common nester ...
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The Cooper’s is a fairly common migrant, an uncommon nester, and an un-common winter resident. It nests most frequently in south central and north-east Iowa, but its secretive habits may help it escape detection in other parts of the state. Its f_light pattern and coloration have long caused this accipiter to be called the blue darter. It preys almost exclusively on small birds, and the ...
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The goshawk, the largest of the bird hawks, is a rare winter resident in Iowa, appearing in late September and leaving by mid April. Periodically, the food base of this northern species declines, causing a southward invasion into neighboring states. Watching this wonderful large predator hunt is about as exciting as bird watching gets. Young birds of this and other accipiter species ...
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The red-shoulder is an uncommon permanent resident and a rare nester. Its habitat is heavily wooded riparian areas, largely along the Mississippi River in eastern Iowa. It suf_fered a sharp decline as a nester in the 1950s and 19six.oldstyle0s but seems to have a stable or even increasing nesting status currently. It often shares its habitat with the barred owl—the owl active by night, the hawk by ...
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This midsize buteo is a common migrant but a rare nester in Iowa. During migration, it can move in large f_locks of two to three thousand birds or more. It nests sparsely across the state, usually in deep woodlands. Iowa birds are gone by mid to late October and are virtually unknown in the state after that....
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This large buteo is a rare migrant and a very rare nester in Iowa. During migra-tion, it is detected by mid April and is mostly gone after October. It is basically a Great Plains species, and its uncommon nest records occur in the northern and western parts of the state. It sometimes migrates in large f_locks, although not as extensive as f_locks of the broad-wing. Young Swainson’s hawks can be ...
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Common to abundant throughout the year, this is the bread-and-butter rap-tor of the bird watcher, yet the four subspecies that occur in Iowa make it a challenge to identify: the western red-tail, the eastern red-tail, Harlan’s red-tailed hawk, and Krider’s red-tail. With its whitish head and nearly white tail feathers, the Krider’s (see page x) is the most spectacular. It apparently for-...
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One of our rarest raptors, the ferruginous hawk has a nesting range in west-ern Nebraska as its closest approach to Iowa. It is very dif_f_icult to positively identify, and many records are not accepted as valid. This is our largest North ...
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This uncommon although regular winter resident arrives in Iowa in late Oc-tober and leaves by late March. Its nesting range is the Arctic tundra, and its periodic incursions into northern states depend upon the availability of food. A large raptor hovering over an open f_ield in winter is nearly always a rough-leg. Two color phases—dark and light—occur in Iowa; light-phase birds seem ...
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Here is royalty in the minds of many birders. This western species is a rare migrant and a rare winter resident. Increased observations in recent years are probably due to an increased interest in ornithology but may also ref_lect increased human activity in its western range. Apparently a few pockets in Iowa, notably along the Upper Iowa and Mississippi rivers in Allamakee ...
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This small falcon, often called a sparrow hawk, is common as a summer resi-dent, less so as a winter resident, and often abundant during migration. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources, in conjunction with the Iowa Depart-ment of Transportation, initiated a nest box program along interstate high-ways in the early 1980s, and it is now common to see this species hovering ...
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The midsize merlin is a rare migrant and a rare winter resident, f_irst occurring during migration in late March and again in late August. A few very old nest-ing records exist. Two subspecies of this falcon occur in Iowa: the taiga merlin ...
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The largest of the North American falcons lives mainly in the Arctic; it is of accidental occurrence in Iowa, with fewer than ten documented reports. The f_irst acceptable records, from 1992 and 1993, were of gray-phase immature ...
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The crow-size peregrine falcon is uncommon during migration but is be-coming more common due to a reintroduction program started by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Falconers, who were at the heart of the reintroduction ef_forts, led the way toward unlocking the secrets of captive propagation of this and other raptor species. After an absence of some thirty ...
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Records of this rare winter resident come mostly from the western half of Iowa. Observations span from very late August through very late April. This is another Great Plains species that wanders into Iowa after the nesting sea-son. It rarely engages in the spectacular stoops of the peregrine falcon but operates much closer to the ground, often tail-chasing its prey. ...
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The barn owl has tough sledding in Iowa because we are at the very north-ern edge of its range. Too bad, because it is one of our most interesting owls. Nearly worldwide in distribution, it is very benef_icial to farmers, to orchard-ists, and to humans in general since its large broods require a constant supply of food. The state’s release program met with limited success because of less-...
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The eastern screech-owl has been a fairly common permanent resident. How-ever, records from the current Breeding Bird Atlas Project suggest that its numbers are declining. Whoever named this owl apparently did not hear its tremulous, descending, haunting warble or whinny, which is certainly not a screech; its lonely call also smacks of mystery and Halloween spookiness. The ...
Great Horned Owl
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This common permanent resident and common nester is one of our most ef-f_icient predators. It likely nests in every Iowa county because it utilizes a va-riety of nest structures, preys on a wide variety of birds and mammals, and is not bothered by the presence of humans and human habitation. Its low, melodious call—common in Iowa—is often heard in movies when a spooky ...
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The snowy is a rare winter visitor but is present in our state every year. It arrives as early as October and is normally gone by late March. Periodically, large invasions occur when lemmings, its principal food base, are in short supply in the Arctic. This is one of the few owls active during daylight....
Northern Hawk Owl
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This is an accidental visitor to Iowa, with only two accepted records, one from Black Hawk County in 1981 and 1982 and one from Worth County in 2004 and 2005. As its name implies, its general shape and perching attitude are some-...
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The burrowing owl is a Great Plains species that rarely nests in Iowa, and these nests, as expected, are mostly in the western half of the state. It is our only owl that nests underground. In its principal range, it uses prairie dog ...
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The booming call of the barred owl is familiar to anyone even slightly inter-ested in birds. Perhaps our least-studied Iowa raptor, it is a fairly common nester in deep woods, generally in river bottoms, often sharing its habitat with red-shouldered hawks at dif_ferent times of the day and night. It occurs commonly in the east and southeast parts of the state but becomes less often ...
Great Gray Owl
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This very large owl is of accidental occurrence in Iowa. The fact that it is a bird of coniferous old-growth forests puts it in conf_lict with logging interests. Its conformation is similar to, though larger than, that of the barred owl, but it has yellow instead of brown eyes. Young nonnesting birds can be heard call-ing from the marginal habitat where they grow up; they compete for prime ...
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The crow-size long-eared owl occurs regularly but nests rarely in Iowa. Since it feeds on mice and uses old crow nests, it is dif_f_icult to understand why this owl is so rare here. In winter, conifer stands are good places to f_ind it....
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This owl is found in Iowa every year, but only a handful of nesting records exist. In Iowa, as with the northern harrier, the short-ear prefers native prai-rie for nesting; it seems less likely to use restored prairies or Conservation Reserve Program lands for nesting. This implies that it will be a rare summer resident here for the foreseeable future. This species is often active just at ...
Northern Saw-whet Owl
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This, the smallest owl found in Iowa, is a visitor from farther north; it is reported every year starting in early October. It is not known to nest here. However, it nests close to the northeast corner of Iowa, where there is plenty of favorable habitat. The boreal owl, Aegolius funereus, a resident of boreal for-ests, is a bit bigger than the saw-whet owl, just as tame, and much rarer, with ...
The Spiral of Perfection by Jon W. Stravers
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...theRe ARe those of us who f_ind a wonderful inspiration in the elegance and beauty of birds, especially in the birds of prey. As Edward O. Wilson has suggested, there is a certain biophilia associated with loving the earth and its environs, and raptors have the ability to capture and ref_lect that sense of wonder, inspiration, and fondness. As part of the community of raptor en-...
A Growing Appreciation for Raptors by Bruce Ehresman
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...the sloW metAmoRphosis in the attitude of Iowans—and the larger society—toward raptors appears to be one of the greatest factors facilitat-ing the restoration of populations of a growing number of these predatory bird species. Undoubtedly, some of the credit for this transformation is due to those who have been involved with environmental education by promot-...
Books Of Interest
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Photographs by Linda Scarth and Robert Scarth, essay by John PearsonThe Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United StatesBy Laura Spess Jackson, Carol A. Thompson, and James J. DinsmoreThe Iowa Lakeside Laboratory: A Century of Discovering the Nature of NatureThe Vascular Plants of Iowa: An Annotated Checklist and Natural History...
Page Count: 119
Illustrations: 34 paintings
Publication Year: 2013
Edition: 1st ed.
Series Title: Bur Oak Book
Series Editor Byline: John Smith, Will Wordsworth