Great Missouri Birding Trail

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Habitats of Missouri

Birds of Missouri

Habitats of Missouri

  • Forest

    Description

    Wooded lands cover about one third of the area of Missouri, and are one of the state’s most valuable resources. These 15.5 million acres of forest and woodland provide jobs, recreational opportunities, help to clean the air and water, and provide crucial habitats for birds and other wildlife. The wooded lands of Missouri can be divided into two main types: forest and woodland.

    Forests have a closed canopy and multiple overlapping layers, shade-tolerant trees in the midstory, and a layer of herbaceous vegetation in the understory. The four types of forest in Missouri include: glaciated, Ozark oak-pine, Ozark hardwood, and bottomland.

    Characteristic Birds

    The particular type of forest you are exploring will ultimately determine which birds you might find. Woodpeckers, wood warblers, vireos, cuckoos, thrushes, and creepers are all common forest species. Characteristic species include: Chuck-will’s-widow, Whip-poor-will, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Eastern Wood-pewee, Acadian Flycatcher, Wood Thrush, Louisiana Waterthrush, Swainson’s Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Red-headed Woodpecker, Summer Tanager, and Bewick’s Wren.

    • Glaciated forests are typically a mix of hardwoods, including white oak, northern red oak, sugar maple, white ash, and hickories. The midstory is filled with shade-tolerant trees and shrubs over an understory of herbaceous vegetation.
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    Forest
    Habitats of Missouri
  • Woodland

    Description

    Wooded lands cover about one third of the area of Missouri, and are one of the state’s most valuable resources. These 15.5 million acres of forest and woodland provide jobs, recreational opportunities, help to clean the air and water, and provide crucial habitats for birds and other wildlife. The wooded lands of Missouri can be divided into two main types: forest and woodland.

    Woodlands have a much more open canopy and a much sparser midstory, allowing more sunlight to reach the ground, resulting in a dense understory of forbs, grasses, and sedges. Fire plays a large role in the restoration and maintenance of woodland habitat systems. The three types of woodland include: glaciated, Ozark oak-pine, and Ozark hardwood.

    Characteristic Birds

    Woodlands share many bird species with forests and, like forests, the particular type of woodland you are exploring will ultimately determine which birds you might find. Woodlands attract raptors, woodpeckers, vireos, nuthatches, cuckoos, wrens, and wood warblers. Associated species include: Cooper’s Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Chuck-will’s-widow, Whip-poor-will, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Eastern Wood-pewee, White-eyed Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, White-breasted Nuthatch, Bewick’s Wren, Gray Catbird, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Pine Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, and Summer Tanager.

    • Glaciated woodland has a varied canopy, but oaks and hickories are common. The understory is usually sparse, depending on the frequency of fire.
      Glaciated woodland has a varied canopy, but oaks and hickories are common. The understory is usually sparse, depending on the frequency of fire.
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    Woodland
    Habitats of Missouri
  • Savanna

    A savanna at Union Ridge

    Description

    Savanna is a type of grassland that mixes open fields of grass with scattered copses of trees and shrubs. Savanna less open space than a prairie, but more open space than a woodland. Tree cover is typically less than one third of the total area of the savanna. The vegetation of the savanna is dominated by prairie grasses and forbs. These plants have adapted to an environment characterized by direct sunlight, frequent wildfires, and grazing.

    Savanna and woodland habitat have many bird species in common.

    Characteristic Birds:

    Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Willow Flycatcher, Great-crested Flycatcher, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, White-eyed Vireo, Bell’s Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Blue Jay, Bewick’s Wren, Loggerhead Shrike, Eastern Bluebird, Brown Thrasher, Blue-winged Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Orchard Oriole, Baltimore Oriole, and American Goldfinch.

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    A savanna at Union Ridge
    Savanna
    Habitats of Missouri
  • Glade

    Description

    Glades are open, rocky areas usually located on steep slopes in woodland areas. Glades have arid, shallow soil, little shade and feature plant communities that are well-adapted to these dry conditions. Some trees and shrubs grow on glades, and without the regular application of fire, the surrounding woodland would gradually fill them in. In Missouri, glades are distinguished by the type of bedrock sticking out of the shallow soil: limestone , dolomite, sandstone, igneous, and chert.

    Characteristic Birds

    Many of your typical woodland species can be found in and around a glade, because glades are situated within woodland dominated landscapes. Though not restricted to glades, Field Sparrow, Brown Thrasher, Bachman’s Sparrow, Painted Bunting, and, of course, the Greater Roadrunner, are typical visitors to glade habitat.

    • Limestone Glade
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    Glade
    Habitats of Missouri
  • Grassland and Prairie

    Description

    Missouri’s native grasslands can be divided into two broad categories: prairie and savanna. Grasslands are similar in appearance to prairies, but were tilled at some point in the past. A true prairie has never seen the plow. In general, the tallgrass prairies of Missouri are open habitats of with sparse trees and shrubs. Savanna is a transitional habitat between open prairie and woodland, with more trees and shrubs than prairie, but not as much as a woodland. Missouri’s prairies have incredible plant diversity, and hundreds of species can be found even on a small area. This diversity of prairie plants contributes greatly to the success of Missouri’s grassland-dependent birds.

    Characteristic Birds

    Despite their limited size, Missouri’s grasslands provide essential habitat for many plant and animal species. Within the prairie habitats, characteristic bird species include the Henslow’s Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, Sprague’s Pipit, Short-eared Owl, Upland Sandpiper, Northern Harrier, Bobolink, Loggerhead Shrike, Dickcissel, Greater Prairie-Chicken, Brown Thrasher, Bell’s Vireo, Blue-winged Warbler, and Eastern Meadowlark. Savanna characteristic species are fewer, but include Red-headed Woodpecker and Northern Bobwhite.

    • Glaciated prairie has very deep, fertile soil, but this soil was deposited by glaciers during the last ice age. This rich prairie was mostly converted to farmland by settlers in the 19th and 20th centuries, and few unplowed tracts remain today.
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    Grassland and Prairie
    Habitats of Missouri
  • Old Field and Hedgerow

    Description

    While these are rather “unnatural” habitats, a wide-variety of birds frequent them nonetheless. Old fields refer to areas of fallow farmland and pastures. Various grasses, forbs, and shrubs grow up to replace the wheat or corn that once grew in these fertile fields. These areas are in a stage where they are reverting back to nature. Birds and other wildlife contribute by dropping seeds from flowers, shrubs, and trees. Wooded hedgerows are common in agricultural land as windbreaks and fencerows. These unattended hedges are overgrown with Osage Orange, Honey/Black Locust, Eastern Red Cedar, dogwoods, elderberries, cherries, and wild plum. Also check out corn stubble and other recently harvested fields for foraging birds.

    Characteristic Birds

    The birds you might find in these areas can overlap with those found in grassland, prairie, savanna, and woodland. Look for Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Northern Cardinal, Orchard Oriole, Lark Sparrow, Horned Lark, Lapland Longspur, Bobolink, Blue Grosbeak, Brown Thrasher, Brown-headed Cowbird, Northern Mockingbird, Mourning Dove, Barn Swallow, Field Sparrow, American Tree Sparrow, Purple Finch, American Goldfinch, Purple Martin, and Northern Bobwhite.

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    Old Field and Hedgerow
    Habitats of Missouri
  • Wetland

    Description

    Wetland habitats are characterized by soil saturated with water that favors the growth of water-loving vegetation. The plants and animals living in wetlands are specially adapted to thrive in these wet conditions. The following types of wetlands are found in Missouri: ephemeral wetlands, emergent marsh, forested swamp, shrub swamp, and fens. These wetlands support a vast number of plants, birds, bats, insects, and other invertebrates. Wetlands help people by purifying water, providing a natural buffer against flooding, and providing exciting recreational activities, such as fishing, waterfowl hunting, and, of course, bird watching. Of more than 300 bird species recorded in Missouri, 110 species that regularly nest or migrate through the state depend on wetlands for part of their life cycle.

    Characteristic Birds

    A variety of birds use wetlands for many stages of their annual cycle. These birds have bodies that reflect their semi-aquatic lifestyle, such as the webbed feet of swans, ducks, and geese, and the long stilt-like legs of herons and egrets. Rails and bitterns have slender, thin bodies that allow them to move through dense wetland vegetation. Gallinules have long toes with wide edges that allow them to walk upon floating lily pads. Characteristic species include: Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, American Bittern, Least Bittern, Common Gallinule, Interior Least Tern, Marsh Wren, Rusty Blackbird, Black-crowned Night-heron, Sora, King Rail, Yellow Rail, and Virginia Rail.

    • Emergent wetlands vary from being seasonally flooded to permanently flooded. They are characterized by the presence of wetland vegetation of various heights.
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    Wetland
    Habitats of Missouri
  • Streams and Rivers

    Description

    If Minnesota is the land of lakes, Missouri is the land of streams, with over 110, 000 miles of flowing water. These many streams and rivers are a result of the flow of water from uplands in each stream’s respective watershed. As the water flows across the landscape, it can form intermittent, ephemeral, and eventually larger perennial streams. This variety creates unique stream habitats and conditions, which support plants and animals that rely on the connectivity of the river system. There are several stream types in Missouri: grassland/prairie, Ozark, Mississippi lowland, and big rivers. The Mississippi and the Missouri, two of America’s largest rivers, have their confluence in Missouri.

    Characteristic Birds

    While many waterbirds use streams and rivers, Bald Eagle are the most characteristic of these habitats.

    • Grassland streams flow through rolling plains of dense perennial grasses and some shrubby draws and valleys.
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    Streams and Rivers
    Habitats of Missouri
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Discover the “best of the best” places to birdwatch in Missouri

The Great Missouri Birding Trail encourages beginner and seasoned birders to explore the best places to birdwatch around the state. The Trail is designed to introduce birders to the diverse birds found across Missouri in its diverse habitats. The Trail is a partnership between the Missouri Bird Conservation Foundation, Missouri Department of Conservation, and Wallis Companies. In addition to these sponsors, private citizens, avid birders, landholders, and conservation groups have proven invaluable to the Trail’s development. The Trail is divided into six regions: St. Louis, Central, Kansas City, Southwest, Southeast, and Northeast. Wherever you are in Missouri, amazing birding is not far away. Most of the Trail's sites are on public land, where you can experience habitat management for many different types of wildlife, including both migratory and resident birds. The website includes an interactive map of the best birding sites around Missouri, along with info on various aspects of bird conservation, including tips for beginners and ways you can help birds. We welcome you to explore the site, and happy birding!