Seeing a bald eagle in the wild is an incredible experience. With their striking white heads and tails, and massive wingspans, mature bald eagles are an impressive and unforgettable sight. Like most birds, bald eagles fly south for the winter and pass right through our neck of the woods. This time of the year you can find them soaring down local rivers and roosting near other open bodies of water. They begin their migration in October, with the highest concentration of eagles visible in central Iowa during the months of January and February.
Eagle viewing is a popular winter activity for bird and nature lovers in and near Des Moines. We’ve got the scoop on how your family can marvel at our national bird, either by joining an organized event or heading out on your own.
Bald eagle viewing is winter nature fun for Des Moines kids:
Des Moines area organized eagle viewing events:
Des Moines Parks and Recreation is teaming up with the Iowa Department of Natural Resource, SOAR and Fellowship Baptist Church to host Bald Eagle Day.
- Outdoor viewing on the SE 6th Street bridge.
- Indoor activities and SOAR (Saving Our Avian Resources) will present a live education ambassador bald eagle.
- For more information call (515) 283-4294
Stop by the Saylorville Visitor’s Center and the Jester Park Lodge to learn about the bald eagle.
- Outdoor viewing at selected sites around the lake, start at the Visitor’s Center.
- Jester Park Lodge will be hosting a live eagle with hourly programs start at 1:00 pm.
- For more information call (515) 276-4656
Eagle viewing on your own:
While attending an organized eagle event is the best way to guarantee you’ll see one of these massive birds, you can try eagle viewing on your own. If nothing else, you’ll have fun trying! Grab your binoculars and head to a local river, lake or park…or maybe even your own backyard! Find additional information about Bald Eagle’s on Iowa DNR’s website.
A few places where you can view eagles in central Iowa:
- Big Creek Lake
- Des Moines River – including Downtown
- Easter Lake
- Gray’s Lake
- Lake Ahquabi State Park
- Raccoon River – Redfield Dam/Big Bend Wildlife Area
- Saylorville Lake
- Summerset State Park/Lake Banner
- Yellow Banks Park
Eagle viewing tips:
- Dress appropriately and bring binoculars or a spotting scope.
- Eagle watching begins in the morning about an hour after sunrise.
- The birds are most active from sunrise until about 3:00 pm, feeding in open water areas.
- Eagles can be seen soaring, perching in trees, and sitting on the ice.
- By late afternoon the birds will be heading for the roost and will not be active unless you are on a flight path to the roost.
Have you ever gone eagle viewing with your family? If so, how’d it go?