Rathbun Lake Visitor's Guide 2022 - Page 23

Rathbun Lake is home to numerous wildlife . Some get more recognition than others depending on the time of the year . During the winter , the most prominent and viewed bird is the American Bald Eagle . Over the course of a few days , one can see upwards of a hundred eagles from around the outlet area to the Bridgeview campground . The winter weather plays a giant factor in the birds ’ length of stay but for a majority , you can see these birds from mid-November to late March .

Migrating Bald Eagles have been stopping at Rathbun Lake since its construction date of 1970 . Eagles of all age groups can be seen at the lake , from young adolescents in dark plumage to the mature eagles in their stunning white feathers . Most of these birds are just passing through , although there are a few that come back to Rathbun to hatch their young .
The resident Bald Eagle nests in the Rathbun area are occupied from mid-March through mid-May . These nests are easily identifiable , mostly by the magnificent size they are . Nests usually are constructed of large sticks and could be lined with moss , grass or plant stalks in the very top of the trees . The nest dimensions are usually 4-5 feet wide and 2-4 feet deep . Some nests can be even bigger , every year the nesting pair of eagles that come back look to add more nesting material each year . If you happen to find such a nest , please do not disturb it or the eagles nesting there . These animals are sensitive , and we do not want them abandoning their eggs or their young . Give them plenty of room and watch from afar with a spotting scope or some binoculars .
The first resident Rathbun Bald Eagle sightings were reported during 1984 and 1985 on the South Fork arm of Rathbun Lake . The Iowa DNR Rathbun Area Wildlife Biologist reported the first Bald Eagle nesting on the Brown ’ s Slough area of Rathbun Lake to the Corps of Engineers in 1994 . This first attempt at nesting was abandoned . In 1995 , the first successful Rathbun Lake nesting fledged two Bald Eagles . In 1996 , the Rathbun Unit of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Rathbun Lake Project of the U . S . Army Corps of Engineers set ‘ BOAT KEEP OUT ’ buoys around the Bald Eagle nest tree in the north fork arm of Rathbun Lake . This limited protection has enabled the Bald Eagles to continue nesting in their favorite tree . Since then , at least two young Bald Eagles have fledged each year , even though both the original nests have blown down and been rebuilt over the last five years . Three active Bald Eagle nests now exist in the immediate Rathbun area – one on each arm of Rathbun Lake and one on private land north of Prairie Ridge Park .
If you happen to see one of Rathbun ’ s Bald Eagles , please be quiet and give them some space .
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