Weather Alert

Rare, ghost-like bird spotted at Iowa wildlife refuge

Union Slough (USFW-photo)

TITONKA — A rare bird has been spotted in northern Iowa. Erich Gilbert, assistant manager at the Union Slough National Wildlife Refuge near Titonka, says there’s a partial albino among the Canada geese that have settled in for the past few weeks.

“It looks almost like a ghost or a hologram,” he says.

It’s the time of year for Canada geese to molt — lose their feathers.. Albino birds are rarely found in the wild.

“They say that birders — someone who is a bird watcher — is likely to see this maybe a couple of times in their lifetime, but it may be a cardinal, it may be a sparrow, it may be any kind of bird,” Gilbert says. “It is quite rare, but if you’re a bird watcher, you’re likely to see one at some point.”

Gilbert says the albino goose is visible from the county highway passes along the south end of the refuge. Gilbert can see sandhill cranes in a shallow area right across from his office.

“They nested here for the third year in a row,” Gilbert says. “Three years ago they nested here for the first time in at least 100 years, probably more than that.”

The drought has made the refuge more attractive to birds.

“Most birds actually like water that’s knee deep or less and some of them actually like water that’s like a half inch deep or even a mud flat, so those shallow water depths aren’t a great problem for birds…but eventually we are looking forward to the rain returning,” Gilbert says. “Hopefully what’ll happen is we’ll get some rain here late summer or early fall and we’ll get things filled back up here for the fall.”

Automobiles were allowed to start traveling along the tour route through the refuge on August 1. It’s open to the public from sunrise until sunset through September 20. The driving route starts at the Refuge Headquarters, which is six miles east of Bancroft. Gilbert says there are all sorts of birds, including ducks, trumpeter swans, great blue herons and pelicans, at the refuge and the best time to see them is in the early morning or evening hours, when the temperatures are cooler and the birds are most active.


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