NORTH IOWA OUTDOORS: Eagle Watching

Eagles are being seen throughout the area as they are now beginning nesting season. They are generally very easy to spot around area lakes, rivers, and streams. Eagles are essentially massive hawks that are often seen perched in the open or soaring on very long broad wings. 


Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

The most common eagle in Iowa. As an adult it is easily identifiable by the white head and tail, large yellow bill, and a 70”-90 wingspan.

  • Juveniles are mostly dark with blotchy white on its underwing and tail. They take 4-5 years to reach full adult plumage.
  • They nest and overwinter in Iowa and are regularly found near rivers.
  • Feed mainly on fish, carrion, and roadkill. 

For most, the nesting season begins in late February and March. If you see a nest, be sure not to disturb it, but call the DNR.

  • Juveniles are mostly dark with blotchy white on its underwing and tail. They take 4-5 years to reach full adult plumage.
  • They nest and overwinter in Iowa and are regularly found near rivers.
  • Feed mainly on fish, carrion, and roadkill. 

For most, the nesting season begins in late February and March. If you see a nest, be sure not to disturb the birds and report the nest to the DNR. 

Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)

  • Most common in the bluff country of Northeastern Iowa, golden eagles can be found from November through March.
  • Golden eagles are brown with a variable yellow to tawny brown wash over the back of the head and neck. Adults have a faintly banded tail. Their wingspan is 80”-88”.
  • Immature bald eagles are frequently misidentified as golden eagles but the golden eagle juveniles have well defined white patches at the base of their primary feathers.
  • It takes 4 years for adult plumage to be acquired