Iowa Public Television

 

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Learning About Birds of Prey, Iowa


Dan Wardell: More than 100 children here at Central College in Pella are about to experience a raptor for the very first time and they may never view birds the same way ever again.

We thought DDT was great, it was killing all the bugs on our crops and that was wonderful.  But that chemical was making its way into the food chain.  It was causing their eggshells to be soft because it was taking calcium out of their body.

The talented staff from the University of Minnesota's Raptor Center know what everyone is here to see, the main event for every youngster.  For most of the kids in this audience, this is the first time they've seen an eagle in person and up close.

If another bird came too close to an eagle, like a crow or something like that, these guys generally don't bother with them.  It takes them more energy to do something with that crow, they'll just fly away.

The 40-minute show-and-tell session is one of the best ways to teach young Iowans about the comeback story of the American Bald Eagle and how the once endangered species has thrived through conservation.

I learned that they really aren't bald.

I learned that the bald eagle eats mice.

While an indoor bald eagle show may be the closest you'll physically be to America's bird, a true appreciation comes from watching an elegant scavenger in its natural environment.  The best location to spot bald eagles during an Iowa winter is wherever the open water is.  The colder the weather, the more likely you are to see large numbers of eagles along the river, like the Des Moines here in central Iowa.

Bald Eagle Days below Red Rock Dam are a perfect example of wintertime open water.  The talented video team here at Iowa Public Television has plenty of tools and equipment to bring you beautiful eagle images.  But you can spot bald eagles with your own eyes.  Just make sure to bring with you some warm clothing, binoculars and some patience.

Now you've got complete control of this.  You can move it down, up. 

Pat Schlarbaum: You can hear the awe.  It's one thing I like to do once they get on an eagle and then magnify it and their brother or sister will see it and then they all want to see it and oh, can you see it, oh yeah.  Then they go whoa!  Then you know they see it and it's the key to passing along this fascination of what an eagle could bring to our lives.

It can take years for a juvenile bald eagle to turn fully white.  If you spot an eagle without a completely white head it could be a rare golden eagle, but most likely it is a bald eagle less than five years of age.

Pat Schlarbaum: And when they see the live birds in the indoor program that, you can't put a value on that other than priceless.  They'll remember it the rest of their lives.


Tags: bird watching bird watching clugs birds birds of prey eagles raptors tourism travel twitchers youth