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Iowa's natural resources plates include the state bird and flower, pheasant, eagle, buck and a Brook trout. Support conservation in Iowa by buying a natural resource plate for your vehicle.
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Support conservation in Iowa by buying a natural resource plate for your vehicle.
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How much do you know about our national bird?
They’re a big deal…
Quite literally, with a wingspan of 6 to 7.5 feet! Most bald eagles are 3 to 3.5 feet tall and weigh 8 to 15 pounds. Despite this impressive and fierce appearance, bald eagles can only lift 3 to 5 pounds. They eat mostly fish, but will also take advantage of a carrion meal.
…but not everyone has thought so
Benjamin Franklin was not a fan of the eagle as our national bird, calling the bald eagle out for its cowardice around kingbirds and its bad habit of stealing fish from other birds. Despite Franklin’s objections, the bald eagle became the feature of the United States’ seal in 1782.
Bald eagles construct massive nests, which can be more than 7 feet across, 12 feet deep and weigh more than two tons. The eagle pair, which usually mate for life, nest February through June and raise one to three young. Those eaglets take first flight about 75 days after hatching.
In the late 1700s, bald eagles ranged from Alaska and Canada down to northern Mexico, possibly with more than 100,000 nesting eagles in the U.S.
Despite its significance as the national bird and emblem, bald eagle numbers began to drop in the late 1800s, along with waterfowl, shorebirds and other prey. Many incorrectly thought eagles were after their livestock and shot the birds. A hundred years later, the pesticide DDT caused reproductive issues with eagles, further lowering their numbers down to just 417 nesting pairs in the U.S. by 1963. Iowa had lost all of its nesting bald eagles by the early 1900s.
Today, Iowa has about 450 nesting pairs of eagles, thanks to restoration efforts and big changes. In 1940, Congress passed the Bald Eagle Protection Act. In 1972, they were one of the first species protected by the federal Endangered Species Act. DDT use was banned. In 1977, Iowa again had eagles nesting. The most recent national survey in 2006 counted 9,789 nesting pairs of eagles in the U.S., leading to its removal from the Endangered Species List. However, it’s still considered a Species of Special Concern in Iowa.
Lend a wing
Be one of the more than 100 volunteers that help monitor nests and survey eagle numbers by signing up here for training: Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program.