What’s on the Menu?

How much do you know about what eagles eat? Take the quiz and find out!

#1 What kind of animal is this?

Sorry! This is a fox squirrel. It is the largest species of tree squirrel native to North America and, unlike gray or red squirrels, has both red and grey fur.

#2 Bald eagles are….

Sorry! Bald eagles are carnivores, or meat-eaters. While eagles eat many different kinds of prey, they don’t eat exclusively or primarily fruit (frugivores), exclusively or primarily fish (piscivores), or everything (omnivores eat food of plant and animal origin).

#3 What kind of animal is this?

Sorry! This is a white sucker! Look for a fleshy, rounded mouth suitable for scraping food off rocks and vegetation, and white or pale fins. We commonly see suckers come into the nest during spawning season, which usually starts in early April. Redhorse suckers have sucker mouths, but their fins have a distinct reddish tint when compared with the white or pale fins of the white sucker.


#4 What are the primary characteristics of mammals?

Sorry! Mammals are warm-blooded, have hair or fur, secrete milk, and typically bear live young! Eagles are warm-blooded, but they have feathers, don’t produce milk, and lay eggs. Fish and reptiles are both cold-blooded, have scales, don’t produce milk, and commonly lay eggs. Fish lay eggs underwater, while reptiles typically lay soft-shelled eggs on land.

#5 True or False: Opossums are the only marsupial (pouched mammal) found in the United States and Canada.

Sorry! Opossums are the only marsupial mammal in the United States and Canada. After young are born they find their way into Mom’s marsupium, or pouch, where they stay for roughly ten weeks! Once they are weaned, they leave Mom’s pouch and strike out on their own.

#6 This is a Prairie dog. Which of our nests do we see it in?

Sorry! Black-tailed prairie dogs don’t live in NE Iowa. They are relatively common at the Fort St. Vrain nest, however! A large colony near the nest provides a valuable source of food for the eagles, along with turtles and fish.

#7 What kind of animal is this?

Sorry! Those are wild turkey feathers. The Decorah North eagles sometimes bring in wild turkey parts, especially in the spring. Look for stiff brownish feathers barred or striped white and/or cream.

#8 What is the most common prey item in our nests?

Sorry! Based on observation and prey remains, the most common prey item at all of our nests is fish. All three nests are close to water and eagles have at least two adaptations (featherless legs and spicules, or bumps on the undersides of their feet) that aid in catching fish. While they aren’t piscivores like ospreys and loons, the eagles we watch show a clear preference for fish.

#9 True or False: Eagles at all three nests eat the same diet

Sorry, the answer is false! Most animals have specific habitat preferences and requirements. While all of our eagles eat fish, the species vary from nest to nest. Black-tailed prairie dogs don’t live in Iowa and wild turkeys aren’t found near the Fort St. Vrain nest. Fortunately, bald eagles are a generalist species. They thrive in a wide variety of habitats and eat a wide variety of prey!

#10 What kind of prey is this?

Sorry! This is placenta. We sometimes see it at the North nest in the spring. Cows give birth in the field and their afterbirth, or placenta, is a protein-rich, low-risk source of food for the eagles. To date, this is the only nest we’ve seen placenta at – another great example of local conditions affecting food resources.

#11 Mom fed three hungry eaglets by herself in 2018. What was her record-breaking haul?

Sorry! The answer was 16 fish on April 23rd, 2018! She brought in two fish at once two times that day, for a total of 14 fishy deliveries to the nest! #SuperMom