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Press Release

Protecting Migratory Birds is a Priority in the Southern District of Iowa

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Iowa

DES MOINES, Iowa – World Migratory Bird Day will be celebrated May 11, 2024, and again on October 12, 2024, aligning generally with migration patterns.

The state of Iowa is located within the Mississippi Flyway, the longest overland flyway in North America. The Mississippi Flyway is a critically important route for migratory birds as they migrate north in spring and south in the fall, with the wetlands and forests along the Mississippi River being important for many species of migratory songbirds in particular. Waterfowl and other wetland birds also heavily use the wetlands in the central and northern Prairie Pothole Region of Iowa, which are essential for both migratory stopover habitat as well as breeding habitat for hundreds of species of birds.

As Peter Rea, supervisory park ranger with DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge explains, “Refuges and wildlife areas throughout Iowa, such as DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, provide critical habitat for migratory birds to rest, feed and recuperate on their long migration journeys. For many, these places act more like a rest stop as they continue their migration northward, while for some it's their ultimate destination for the spring and summer nesting season.” “During this time of year, it's important to minimize disturbance so other visitors can appreciate the tremendous diversity of birds that we can see throughout the state,” continued Rea.

Federal law protects migratory birds. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) prohibits the taking (including killing, wounding, capturing, selling, trading, transporting, importing, and exporting) of protected migratory bird species without prior authorization of the Department of Interior U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 16 U.S.C. §§ 703, 707(a). The list of federally protected migratory birds is comprehensive and includes many of the birds residing in or migrating through Iowa, including Canada geese. Refer to the Federal Code of Regulations for more information. The penalties for violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act are a term of imprisonment of up to 6 months, a fine of up to $15,000, or both.

Additional federal statutes that protect migratory birds include:

  • The Lacey Act prohibits the importation, exportation, transportation, sale, receipt, acquisition, purchase, or inhumane transport of certain wildlife including birds. 16 U.S.C. § 42;
  • The Endangered Species Act prohibits the taking, killing, wounding, importing, exporting, shipping, or sale of endangered species. 16 U.S.C. §§ 1538, 1540.  Iowa’s birds on the endangered species list include the following: piping plover, rufa red knot, whooping crane, Indiana bat, and Northern long-eared bat. Learn more about protected species.
  • The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act prohibits the taking, killing, wounding, bald or golden eagles, their feathers, nests, and eggs. 16 U.S.C. § 668.

“Birders and other wildlife enthusiasts can be helpful advocates in reducing wildlife crime. Knowing the laws that protect birds and other wildlife, and speaking up can make a big difference,” said Christopher Aldrich, Special Agent in Charge, Midwest Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“Preservation and protection of wildlife and endangered species go hand in hand with the high quality of life here in the State of Iowa. Knowing these laws and reducing wildlife crime helps everyone continue to enjoy what makes Iowa a great place to live,” said Richard Westphal, United States Attorney.

If you believe you have information related to a wildlife crime that violates federal law, please reach out to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. You can also contact the United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Iowa by telephone at 515-473-9300 or email at

If you spot an injured bird, state licensed wildlife rehabilitators can aid the bird. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources maintains a list of licensed wildlife rehabilitators at the following links:

Thank you for caring about the wildlife in your community. Remember to observe wildlife from a safe distance. If a young animal isn’t visibly injured, its parents are likely nearby and still caring for it. Be sure to give young animals plenty of space to avoid spooking the parents.

Learn more about what to do if you find a baby bird, injured or orphaned wildlife.


Public Information Officer 

Updated April 22, 2024