The University of Iowa Athletics Department and the Iowa Raptor Project (IRP), a program of the University of Iowa College of Education, are partnering on a joint wildlife conservation education initiative.  This program will integrate Raptor Ambassadors, featuring native Red-tailed Hawks and Peregrine Falcons, into select University of Iowa athletic events.  These appearances will generate messaging tied to the educational and research efforts of the Iowa Raptor Project (IRP).  The IRP will be the caretakers and trainers for all the Raptor Ambassadors involved in the program.  The health, safety, and security of the animals will be the primary focus at all times.


The IRP’s mission is to connect students and community to the conservation of birds of prey and their natural habitats through research and education.  The IRP achieves its goal to preserve Iowa’s raptor populations and habitats through educational experiences that awaken awareness, nature appreciation, and inspire action, as well as through field research.


Ryan Anthony | Master Falconer | Director of Iowa Raptor Project

Dave Conrads | Director of UI WILD, College of Education

Holly Anthony | Master Falconer | Asst. Director Iowa Raptor Project


The primary goal is to promote the nature conservation efforts led by the Iowa Raptor Project.  The Iowa Athletics Department will coordinate the appearances, branding efforts, promotions, and communication for the program. The Raptor Ambassadors could also be featured in Hawkeye Athletics promotional materials, videos, and online to provide consistent exposure to the importance of conservation. The raptors are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and Iowa state laws.  The raptor images will not be used to promote tickets or revenue generation, but can be used in gameday collateral such as introduction videos.


Hercules 2 | Female Red-tailed Hawk | Born: 6/1/2021

Hercules 3 | Male Red-tailed Hawk | Born: 6/3/2021

Walter | Male Harris's Hawk | June 2022


Where did we get the raptors?

Hercules II (born 6/1/2021) & III (born 6/3/2021) were captive-bred in Washington State.

These birds were purchased by the University of Iowa to conduct conservation education surrounding birds of prey and their habitats. Hercules II has an injured eye, but the birds are otherwise fully capable of flight and have no other injuries.

Will these birds be flying at Iowa Hawkeye Events?

They will be trained to fly at our events by our Master Falconers at the Iowa Raptor Project. To provide the best care for the birds, the birds will not be flown when there is unnecessary risk involved. Examples of these risks include, but are not limited to: inclement weather, unusual behavior from the program birds, or other uncontrollable variables.

What does training look like for the raptors?

The training will consist of lots of rewards based on operant conditioning by highly experienced staff and volunteers. Birds are encouraged to express desirable natural behaviors through training. Only positive reinforcement is ever used to reinforce good behavior expressed by the birds; undesirable behaviors are simply ignored.

The Athletics Department will track the training process and share updates.  The training will occur at Kinnick Stadium.

What happened to Hercules II eye?

Her first-time mother accidentally stepped on her in the nest.

Where will the raptors live?

The raptors will live out at the Iowa Raptor Project. The IRP’s current location is at the University of Iowa’s Macbride Nature Recreation Area just north of Iowa City. The raptors will NOT be on general display to the general public.

Who owns the raptors?

The University of Iowa purchased the raptors.

Who takes care of the raptors?

The staff of the Iowa Raptor Project includes two master falconers who are on staff with UI. These two staff members and a wonderful team of volunteers and interns take care of the raptors.

How many raptors do we have?

The Raptor Ambassador Program currently has two red-tailed hawks and one peregrine falcon.
The Iowa Raptor Project, however, houses and exhibits 16 birds of prey at the Macbride Nature Recreation Area.

Will they be at every football game this year?

Yes.  The plan is to have at least one raptor at each home game this year.

If I donate to the Iowa Raptor Project, what are the funds utilized for?

All funds go towards providing husbandry and care to the birds at the Iowa Raptor Project or to promote conservation efforts for Iowa’s raptors. The Iowa Raptor Project is also looking to enhance the raptor enclosures, expand on research for birds of prey, and continue to promote nature conservation efforts through education and nature interpretation.

Can I use photos of the raptors to promote myself, business, or generate revenue?

No. They are owned by the University and legally protected birds through various state and federal laws.

All raptors are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (16 U.S.C. 703–712, MBTA). Raptors are further protected by Iowa State Laws (Iowa Code 2021, Section 481A.42). Peregrine Falcons are a species of special concern in Iowa and therefore provided some additional protections (571 IAC chapter 77.2: List of Animals).