Missouri Birding Trail offers ‘special events’ throughout May

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A male painted bunting is one of the most colorful birds in all of North America. With its blue head, red underparts, and green back, it’s an easy bird to fall in love with, if not to actually find. In the Ozark, you will find painted buntings in tangles and thickets, along with indigo buntings, gold finches and dozens of varieties that pass through each springtime on the way to nesting sites.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Bird Conservation Foundation and Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) have invited serious birders and those who may just be starting their quest to special events throughout May to celebrate the completion of the Great Missouri Birding Trail. Many of the birds, such as hawks and eagles, have growing populations after years of decline. Other species, such as the Mississippi kite, greater roadrunner and painted bunting, are adjusting their habitats northward into the Ozarks (along with some less desirable critters, such as the anteater, black bear and even mountain lions).

The Great Missouri Birding Trail was initiated by Mike Doyen, president of the Missouri Bird Conservation Foundation. It is a partnership between MDC and the Foundation with support from other state and federal agencies and birding organizations. Missouri’s unique variety of bird habitats makes bird-watching an activity all year long.

MDC State Ornithologist Sarah Kendrick explains that the Great Missouri Birding Trail is not actually a physical trail, but a website (greatmissouribirdingtrail.com) for beginning and more seasoned birders to explore the “best of the best” places to birdwatch around Missouri. Many of the most beautiful birds in nature are either natives or frequent migrating visitors, and not that hard to observe with some help and patience about where and when to look. Many can even be seen in your own backyard, neighborhood or public gardens, especially if you can provide food, water and safe shelter.

The website includes an interactive map of the best birding sites around the Show-Me State with information on various aspects of bird conservation. Pages include birding tips, beginner basics, landscaping and property improvements for birds, and how to get involved with local bird organizations.

Starting in Springfield, here is a list of special events:

  • May 11 in Springfield at the MDC Springfield Conservation Nature Center, 4601 S. Nature Center Way.
  • May 12 in Rolla at the Audubon Trails Nature Center, 550 Meriweather Court.
  • May 17 in the Kansas City area at the MDC Burr Oak Woods Conservation Nature Center, 1401 NW Park Road in Blue Springs.
  • May 18 in the St. Louis area at the MDC Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center, 11715 Cragwold Road in Kirkwood.
  • May 19 in Columbia at the MDC Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, 6700 W Route K.
  • May 24 in Kirksville at the MDC Northeast Regional Office, 3500 S. Baltimore.
  • May 26 in Cape Girardeau at the MDC Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center, 2289 County Park Drive.

The events will include a brief opening ceremony with Birding Trail signage unveiled followed by short birding walks on area trails. The first 25 people at each event will receive a Great Missouri Birding Trail tote bag or water bottle. Attendees will also get Trail bumper stickers and lens cloths for cameras and binoculars.

Online Trail for Actual Birdwatching

“In today’s technological world, paper maps can become outdated quickly,” says Kendrick. “The Birding Trail is a mobile-friendly website with an easy-to-use map of our best birding sites for access anytime, anywhere.”

Doyen adds that the best birding locations include mostly public land, such as conservation areas and state parks, and feature various types of bird habitats, such grasslands, wetlands, woodlands, forests, glades, and savannas.

“Trail sites were chosen to feature Missouri’s high-quality habitats, and each one hosts a different suite of birds to identify and enjoy,” he said. “Habitat is so important for birds. That’s why we encourage birders to landscape with native plants and improve their backyards or property for birds in other ways.”

According to Doyen, Missouri has close to 1.5 million birders, age 16 and older.

“Birding is the fasting growing activity in Missouri, the nation, and around the world,” he said. “Our estimated economic impact in Missouri is close to $1 billion annually.”

For more information, visit greatmissouribirdingtrail.com, or contact Doyen at mdoyen@yahoo.com, or Kendrick at 573-522-4115, ext. 3262, or Sarah.Kendrick@mdc.mo.gov.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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