There are numerous birding events throughout the year in Iowa. Be sure to check the calendar for upcoming activities in your area. For IOU members (and potential members), two of the largest are the annual spring and fall meetings of the I.O.U. These meetings are held at sites throughout Iowa and hosted by a local group. The spring meeting is usually held on a weekend in May, allowing attendees to take advantage of peak spring migration. Although usually held in September, fall meetings may be held anytime from late August to early November, depending on the location and what birds might be sought at the meeting.
Christmas Bird Counts are another major birding event. Held during late December or early January, Iowa has about 50 of these counts annually. The event is sponsored by the National Audubon Society but many IOU members are involved in one or more of these counts and the IOU helps publicize the event by compiling a list of the dates, locations, and contact people for Iowa's counts. The event involves trying to find and count as many birds as possible within a 15-mile-diameter circle and during a one-day period. Circle locations are maintained from year to year, and the totals from the various counts are compiled and published annually in Iowa Bird Life and also online from the National Audubon Society.
In recent decades, a number of birding festivals have been held in Iowa. The best known are the Bald Eagle events, typically held in late December or January and usually along the Mississippi River or other major rivers in the state. Most Bald Eagle events last for several days and include activities for school children, talks, tours, and opportunities to view Bald Eagles.
A pelican festival has been held in Iowa since about 2000. Originally held at Saylorville Reservoir near Des Moines, in 2011 it was moved to Coralville Reservoir. The festival is usually held in late August to allow participants to see the large flocks of American White Pelicans that migrate through Iowa at that time. Sponsors include Iowa Audubon, the Army Corps of Engineers, and several county conservation boards and Audubon groups. It is a one-day event featuring educational activities, talks, and opportunities to view pelicans and other birds.
In addition to the above organized events, there are several places where birders can view migrating raptors during fall. The best known is the raptor watch at Hitchcock Nature Center north of Council Bluffs. There a tower on a bluff provides an impressive view of the Missouri River Valley. This raptor watch is staffed daily from late August to early December. In some falls, more than 10,000 raptors as well as thousands of other birds are counted. For a number of years a raptor watch has been held at Effigy Mounds in northeastern Iowa. This weekend event features watching raptors move past the high bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. Another raptor count is held at Grammar Grove Park in Marshall County where a small group of individuals meet to count migrating raptors several days each week.