Birds in Iowa

Seeing the snow fall this week, we thought you might be in need of some cheer. And given the fact that our plants are still waiting to awaken from their dormancy, now seems to be an appropriate time to turn the spotlight over to the birds of Iowa.

We’ve been fortunate enough to photograph several interesting species this winter. And we’ve included some of these photographs in this issue of our newsletter along with a brief profile of each specimen. We hope you enjoy viewing these beautiful creatures as much as we have!

Northern Cardinal

Picture of a cardinal


Cardinals are possibly the most easily recognizable birds in Iowa. Their bright red feathers make a truly striking contrast with the white, snow-covered landscape. If you‘d like to attract Cardinals to your yard, you can try using seed mixes that include unhulled black oil sunflower and safflower seeds. Cardinals also prefer feeders that are steady and won’t sway.

Blue Jay

Picture of blue jay


This intelligent bird has the reputation for being a bit “mean.” Perhaps they’ve let their beautiful blue colors go to their heads. Whatever the case, having one land in your yard is a treat. However, if you plan on photographing one, don’t make any sudden moves. These birds are just as cautious as they are observant.


Picture of goldfinch


The state bird of Iowa.  Their bright yellow feathers make these birds easily identifiable in the summer. In the winter though, they turn the yellowish-brown color you see in the above photo. You can attract them with thistle or nyjer seed. If you’re fortunate enough to live by a steady food source such as a weedy field, you might see flocks of 30 or more goldfinches at a time.

White-breasted Nuthatch

Picture of white-breasted nuthatch


This is a very agile little bird. It’s common to see them running directly up or down trees, posts, and walls. They often can be seen feeding alongside black-capped chickadees, the next bird on our list.

Black-capped Chickadee

Picture of black-capped chickadee


Chickadees always seem to be in motion. When they stop to feed it’s only for a moment.  They prefer grabbing their morsel and flying to a nearby perch to eat rather than lingering on a feeder. They appreciate black oil sunflower seed and high energy suet (pictured above).

Downy Woodpecker

Picture of downy woodpecker


One of the more common woodpeckers in Iowa. They love suet. This winter we’ve put both store-bought suet and real beef suet in our feeders. The woodpeckers seem to go for the real beef suet almost every time. If you can put up with the unpleasant task of restocking the beef suet, you’ll make several woodpeckers in your neighborhood very happy.

Red-bellied woodpecker

Picture of red-bellied woodpecker


This woodpecker is much larger than the downy and seems to be less smitten with the suet. You’ll have a better chance seeing this beautiful bird if you live in the country or near a wooded area.

Have you seen any interesting birds this year? If so, send us your pictures at We’ll be sure to include it in our upcoming newsletter.