Giving Back: Iowa’s Bald Eagle Territory Monitoring Project

By Steve Webner

Have you ever enjoyed watching the majestic bald eagle in flight over the Iowa countryside? Or have you viewed the live Decorah eagle nest video online with awe and wonder? I have always been fascinated with the great bald eagle and have enjoyed watching them make a great comeback in Iowa over the past several years. I have also always found it important to find ways to give back in my own community and the natural resources around me. Fortunately, there is a way for bald eagle-lovers to do just that!

The Iowa Department of Natural Resource is seeking citizen volunteers for their Iowa Bald Eagle Territory Monitoring Project. You don’t have to have special credentials to take part in this very rewarding citizen volunteer experience. All you need is a pair of binoculars or spotting scope. As a volunteer, you will collect simple observational data by tracking eagle nest activity, nesting pairs, and their young. The bald eagle has made tremendous gains in population density throughout the state of Iowa since its days on the Endangered Species List. However, the bald eagles still need help, and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) needs volunteers to assist with monitoring these birds in order to provide data that will enable the DNR to make crucial decisions for their health and survival of the species.

As a volunteer for the Iowa Department of Natural Resource’s Eagle Monitoring Project for the past two years, I have been assigned to two local nests which I visit from a distance intermittently during the spring months. I have observed multiple eaglets mature from hatchlings to the point of leaving the nest. I have observed fascinating hunting and feeding activities by the male and female bald eagle parents. This has been an amazing opportunity to get out and relax in nature while being able to contribute my time as a volunteer for the DNR.

If you would like to be a part of strengthening the bald eagle species in the state of Iowa, you can learn more by visiting the Iowa Department of Natural Resources “Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program” at This website provides all of the information you will need to get started including contact information, training opportunities, and volunteer reference guides. Getting started is as simple as notifying a Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program coordinator about your interest by emailing [email protected] or calling 515-230-6599. Please note that there is some brief and simple training required to learn more about bald eagles, how to monitor nests, and what observational data to collect

The Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program has other opportunities outside of the Bald Eagle Territory Monitoring Project. Other programs include the observation of ospreys, peregrine falcons, frogs, toads and bats. Not all of these programs run continuously, so contact the program coordinator to inquire about these monitoring programs. I hope you will get out there and enjoy yourself while giving back to our great Iowa natural resources!