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An Iowa Afternoon for the Birds: Why You Can't Miss Iowa's Raptor Center
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An Iowa Afternoon for the Birds: Why You Can't Miss Iowa's Raptor Center

Spanning 2,180 acres just north of the Iowa City area is Lake Macbride State Park, Iowa’s largest state park. Multiple activities await the denizens of the area who thrive on outdoor activities including fishing, hiking, swimming, and boating.

One of my favorite Lake Macbride attractions is the Raptor Center, an area designated for the preservation of Iowa’s natural predatory birds. Birds housed at the Raptor Center are no longer suited for life in the wild. They’re kept where they can be properly cared for and displayed for ornithologists of all ages to enjoy.

Orion is a Red-Tailed Hawk that has made the Raptor Center her home since arriving in 2003 with a severely injured left wing. The most common hawk found in Iowa, redtails are identified by their cream-colored breast and - you guessed it - red tail feathers.  

Kanati is a Peregrine Falcon who came to the Raptor Center in 2005 after suffering multiple injuries in a territory dispute. Peregrines, like most birds of prey, are known for their keen eyesight. What sets this bird apart from anything else in the animal kingdom is its ability to achieve incredible velocity. Reaching diving speeds of nearly 200mph, the Peregrine is the fastest animal ever known.

Spirit is a majestic Bald Eagle. She’ll first take your breath away when she makes eye contact, and again when she spreads her wings to their full span of 7 feet.

Seeing these birds, along with the Kestrels, Barred Owls, and Turkey Vultures is completely free of charge. Donation boxes are posted throughout the area with a note to let you know how your contribution will be used. There is a Prairie Walk and Butterfly Garden nearby with signs posted to educate visitors on the kinds of wildflowers and butterflies they can expect to see at different times of the year.

A couple of things to keep in mind: if you’re not familiar with Lake Macbride, you’ll want to use your GPS to lead you to the Raptor Center. While the birds are safely kept behind double-layered steel wire cages, dogs are not permitted into the area. There is a shaded area nearby with water available for the pups, but they won’t be permitted near the birds.

The Raptor Center is an educational and informative attraction that offers intimate looks at birds you’ll spot in the wild, but rarely get to see so closely.    


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  1. Travel Iowa Team
    Travel Iowa Team
    Another terrific post! Thanks for contributing to the Travel Iowa blog!
    Log in to reply.
    1. Mathew Reese
      Mathew Reese
      Thank you for your kind words!
      Log in to reply.


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