Iowa's Breeding Birds

Rose-breasted Grosbeak - Jay GilliamBirding in Iowa has a distinctly eastern flavor.  As a general rule the birds one finds breeding here will be the same as one finds in New Jersey.  Iowa has documented breeding of 206 species.  One of these, Passenger Pigeon, is now extinct.  Swallow-tailed Kite, Whooping Crane, Long-billed Curlew, Say's Phoebe, and Rock Wren formerly nested but are now considered accidental in the state.  Three other species, King Rail, Burrowing Owl, and Prairie Warbler, irregularly appear in the state and have successfully nested in recent years.  This leaves a total of 197 regularly recorded species which might be reasonably searched for during an atlas project.

Many of these species are expected each summer.  Others, however, are sporadic or local.  Scissor-tailed Flycatcher appears annually but has only nested once.  Red Crossbills may or may not be found in summer in any given year.  Greater Prairie-Chicken and Black-billed Magpie are extremely localized.  Some species have contracted their breeding range over the years while others have expanded and are found more frequently here.  Of the 200 regular and casual nesting species in the state, 188 of them were recorded as confirmed or probable during this five year atlas project for a 94% success rate.

The focus over the past few decades have been on breeding grassland birds.  As our grasslands disappear to row crop production, so do birds like Henslow's and Grasshopper Sparrows, Bobolink, and Dickcissel.  The increase in CRP acreage should be apparent in some of these species reports.  Conversely some adaptation appears to be happening.  Observers have reported increasing sightings of Upland Sandpipers in soy bean fields.  Enjoy comparing our species distribution from 20 years ago to now.