Many Iowans are aware of the Bald Eagles that nest in Decorah. But believe it or not there is an active eagle’s nest only a stone’s throw away from the University of Iowa main campus. And it is so accessible to viewing that most in the area will never have a better opportunity to view one up close. The nest site is in a tall cottonwood tree behind the Coralville Marriott Hotel & Conference Center. Simply take the paved path that runs behind the Conference Center, locate the “Prairie Breeze Bench” sculpture, and look toward the Iowa River. You can’t miss it.
For the time being you will likely see the white head of an adult eagle protruding above the rim of the nest, sitting quietly, keeping the young eaglets warm, and possibly watching you watching them. If you’re lucky, you might catch one of the adult pair return from a successful hunt. Then it’s feeding time for the eaglets. It will be a few weeks before the eaglets are large enough to be visible from the path. But once they reach the juvenile stage, get ready for a spectacular display of wing stretching prior to fledging.
During this time of social distancing, we encourage you to take the opportunity step out for some fresh air and take advantage of a rare opportunity to connect with Iowa wildlife, while keeping a 6 foot minimum distance between you and others on the path.
When viewing the eagles, please take care to avoid distressing them, particularly at this sensitive stage, by maintaining a healthy distance. Iowa DNR recommends a minimum distance of 400 yards. But if you stay on the path, all should be well, since the eagles are already accustomed to passersby on that path.
For more information on Bald Eagles, Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds website is a fine place to start. University of Iowa students, faculty, and staff have subscription access to Birds of the World, which provides in-depth, research level information.
N.B.: Bring a pair of binoculars for best viewing.
Thank you to Kai Weatherman for writing this post!