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Potluck: Iowa Bird Atlas

For the Birds

Compiled by Carol Bodensteiner and Mary Gottschalk

Each breeding season since 2008, volunteer birders and wildlife biologists have gone “atlasing” in 791 designated 3x3-mile blocks distributed across the state to document nesting birds. The Iowa Breeding Bird Atlas is a concerted effort to collect information on the distribution and nesting habits of all Iowa birds with the intent of improving the state’s ability to manage and conserve wildlife.

As of June 2012, atlasers had recorded 193 nesting species and confirmed 163 nesters. “The species recorded are comparable to the first Atlas project (conducted from 1985–1990),” reports Shane Patterson, coordinator. “With the new data, we can draw comparisons of habitat and land use changes and how that’s impacted nesting birds.”

Patterson points out that many species have declined, including loggerhead shrikes and several species of owls. Others have increased, among them the Eastern meadowlark, summer tanager, and sandhill crane. “We have many success stories. Some of our findings are likely indicative of nesting-range expansions. Habitat restoration has played a significant role in recent years for various bird species.”

Learn more online at — C.B.

Photo courtesy Reid Allen

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