Iowa Audubon


Apr 11, 2018

Ringgold County’s Kellerton Grasslands Important Bird Area (IBA) has been elevated to status of a Globally Important Bird Area(GIBA) by National Audubon, and by BirdLife International, based in Great Britain.  The Kellerton Grasslands are best known in Iowa for the resident population of Greater Prairie Chickens, but the new GIBA designation was made based upon the region’s critical importance to nesting Henslow’s Sparrows, listed as an Iowa Threatened Species.

Kellerton GIBA also has dual designation as an Iowa DNR Bird Conservation Area (BCA).  While Audubon’s IBA program recognizes sites critical for nesting by several declining bird species, or important for large migration stopovers, the BCA program is aimed at designating large landscapes of habitat critical to a wider variety of Iowa’s birds and even other wildlife.  Kellerton was DNR’s original  Iowa BCA, and the first such designation of a grassland in the nation.

Although prairie chickens were one of the DNR’s first targets for better habitat protection on a BCA landscape, it was quickly realized that the area also houses many other nesting species of greatest conservation need, including Henslow’s Sparrows, Grasshopper Sparrows, Loggerhead Shrikes, Bell’s Vireos and more.  Nesting population studies of some species were begun through Iowa State University, with original Henslow’s Sparrow numbers compiled by Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit Leader Rolf Koford.  Following Emeritus Professor Koford’s retirement, DNR Wildlife Diversity Biologist Bruce Ehresman took over collecting more nesting data.  In early 2017 he submitted sufficient records to the National Audubon Society, so it could be considered for and receive Globally Important status. 

GIBA designation is not easy to acquire, but large numbers of Henslow’s Sparrows nesting in the Kellerton Grasslands resulted in this BCA/IBA gaining only the second such international recognition in Iowa.  The first was Effigy Mounds/Yellow River Forest BCA/GIBA, designated in 2013 for its nesting population of Cerulean Warblers, a species seeing a 70% national decline since 1966. Upon receiving Globally Important status, Iowa DNR and Iowa Audubon hope to target even more conservation effort, to assure the iconic species for each can stabilize or continue to recover, while also providing far better habitat for all wildlife. 

Kellerton Grasslands BCA/GIBA offer some of the best grassland bird sighting opportunities in all of Iowa.  Iowa Audubon is pleased to work in cooperation with Iowa DNR and the National Audubon Society to promote and protect this extremely crucial habitat and encourage birders to visit the area.

Apr 11, 2018

      In March, the Iowa Audubon Board of Directors reviewed and selected projects for its 2018 small grants program.  Grants were awarded to two projects, utilizing "Wilson B. Reynolds and Juanita E. Reynolds Fund of the Minnesota Conservation Foundation" reserves set aside specifically for work in Iowa.

      The first award was to Ida County Conservation Board, to be used in partnership with funds also granted to Ida CCB by their local Pheasants Forever chapter. Monies from PF will be used to purchase evergreens to replace some dying conifers in Moorhead Park, located near the town of Ida Grove.  Iowa Audubon's grant funds will be used to prepare and maintain the planting sites for those new pine and spruce trees.  An important reason for this project is that Moorhead Park is famed for its annual wintering numbers of Northern Saw-whet and Long-eared Owls, which often are easily viewed by park visitors. This makes Moorehead Park a wonderful place to observe and learn about two of Iowa's lesser-known and sometimes secretive owl species. 

      The second award is to Professor Brian Peer of Western Illinois University, who is working to protect nesting habitat and sites for Prothonotary Warblers on Iowa's side of the Mississippi River, near Davenport.  Partnering with Nahant Marsh Conservation Education Center, Peer will be constructing and mounting warbler nest boxes on poles near or over backwaters of the Mississippi.  Prothonotary Warblers are one of only a couple of species of warblers that are cavity nesters and which readily use artificial nest structures.  But flooding in recent years has managed to drown out active nest boxes in this area, so the new structures will bespecially attached to the poles with cables, allowing the boxes to be raised above rising water levels in the event of future flooding. Prothonotary Warblers are just one of many avian species in decline across the U.S, so this small grant was awarded to attempt helping stabilze this species in Iowa.

Iowa Audubon's funds reserved for small grants will be increased in 2019, so the organization should be able to award more and/or larger grants next year. 

Feb 01, 2018

      Two tracts of land in the Iowa River Corridor (IRC), totaling 130.44 acres, were acquired late last year to help fill some gaps within a large complex of public lands held by Iowa DNR and the US Fish & Wildlife Service.  Purchase was made possible by a 50% matching gift from Audubon to DNR, utilizing funds from the Carole Donovan Trust, specified only for conservation projects in Tama, Iowa and Benton counties. A previous tract of 74.45 acres was acquired in 2016 also with Audubon’s assistance.

     This acquisition enlarges part of a permanently protected core of DNR’s designated Bird Conservation Area (BCA), also co-designated by Audubon as an Iowa “Important Bird Area” (IBA).  The Iowa River Corridor BCA/IBA hosts the one of the largest varieties of avian species of any the 25 co-designated BCA/IBAs in Iowa.  Public lands in the IRC are placed in permanent grassland, wetland and forest habitats, which also serve to help reduce flooding and farm runoff nutrients into the Iowa River, a major tributary to the Mississippi River.  These two new public land parcels are located about 3 and 4 miles southeast of Belle Plaine.  The northern tract consists mostly of floodplain grasslands, intended for DNR's eventual restoration to native prairie.  The southern tract is bisected by the Iowa River and consists primarily of floodplain forest.  Both parcels are open for non-motorized public use, be it for birding, fishing, hunting, or hiking. Lead ammunition use is banned for hunting on these lands, thus reducing the threat of lead poisoning to eagles and other wildlife.


      The Donovan Trust is administered by Audubon Minnesota, a National Audubon Society office, and directed for use by Iowa Audubon working in close partnership. Both state Audubon groups are most pleased to help DNR consolidate the IRC’s public lands, help reduce water pollution and restore habitat for critical avian species that resulted in designation of this BCA/IBA.

Apr 05, 2017

For nearly two years, Audubon Minnesota and the National Audubon Society, with many other partners, pleaded with the Minnesota Vikings’ owner to substitute “bird friendly” glass in construction of the new US Bank Stadium, which opened last fall.  The request was made to protect birds following the nearby Mississippi River in migration but was ignored, and 200,000 sq. ft. of highly reflective glass walls were installed.  This past autumn, volunteers walked around the stadium for three months, collecting many birds which died in glass collisions.  Hundreds more likely died elsewhere after injuries, or were removed by stadium maintenance crews before being found by the volunteers.  US Bank Stadium is now recognized as the most lethal structure for birds anywhere in Minnesota. 

A new 33-storey skyscraper is planned for downtown Des Moines, with probable design illustrating the entire building wrapped in reflective glass walls. Because of site proximity to the Des Moines River, a major migration pathway, this building could become our own version of the tragic new Vikings' stadium.  Iowans should contact the City of Des Moines and demand that this building--plus other future similar constructions--include the use “bird-friendly” glass.  Specially treated glass, such as etched or fritted, can cut bird collision deaths by as much as 80% and does not detract from building design.  This could help stave off further decline of many of our native and migrating bird species caused by glass building collisions. Let's not follow the example of the new stadium in Minneapolis.

Feb 08, 2017

       Last year, Iowa Audubon worked with Iowa DNR to acquire approximately 74 acres in the Iowa River floodplain between Belle Plain and Marengo.  This is the first project in the history of Iowa DNR that Audubon has been a sole acquisition partner, splitting costs 50-50.  Purpose of the project was to fill in a gap between existing parcels of public lands.  The Iowa River Corridor (IRC) is co-designated as one of DNR’s “Bird Conservation Areas” (BCAs) and Audubon’s “Important Bird Areas” (IBAs), so connecting, enlarging and permanently protecting avian habitat here is vital to both programs. Wetlands and native prairie restorations are planned for this new site by Iowa DNR.

       Beginning this past fall, additional contributions from Audubon are going to the US Fish & Wildlife Service to better restore wetlands and grasslands on some federal property within the IRC IBA-BCA, work that will continue again this year.  Finally, additional acquisition projects are now being reviewed by DNR and Audubon, in hopes of again working together to enlarge and protect public lands in the IRC.  Funding for all projects here result from a bequest in the name of Carole Donovan, donated to the National Audubon Society for use only in Tama, Iowa and Benton counties.  Iowa Audubon, an independent Audubon Society, has worked closely with National Audubon to direct this money to the best uses for bird conservation here.  Watch for news of the next projects in our newsletter and on this website..