The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and the Missouri Bird Conservation Foundation invite the public to a special celebration of the Great Missouri Birding Trail on May 11 at the Springfield Conservation Nature Center. The free event will run from 9 a.m. to noon.

After a brief opening ceremony, the event will include guided bird walks from members of the Greater Ozarks Audubon Society and an opportunity to learn more about birding. The first 25 attendees to show up will receive a Great Missouri Birding Trail tote bag or water bottle. There is no registration for this event. Call the Springfield Conservation Nature Center at 417-888-4237 for details. Information about this event is also at mdc.mo.gov/springfield. The Springfield Conservation Nature Center is located at 4601 S. Nature Center Way.

“Participants should bring binoculars and field guides if they have them,” said Nature Center Manager Linda Chorice. “They will also be loaned out to others who need them.”

The Great Missouri Birding Trail was initiated by Mike Doyen, president of the Missouri Bird Conservation Foundation. It is now a partnership between MDC and the Foundation with support from other state and federal agencies and birding organizations.

MDC State Ornithologist Sarah Kendrick explained that the Great Missouri Birding Trail is not an actual trail, but a website (greatmissouribirdingtrail.com) for beginner and seasoned birders to find and explore the “best of the best” places to birdwatch around Missouri. 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.

“In today’s technological world, paper maps can become outdated quite quickly,” said Kendrick.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 as 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 fastest growing activity in Missouri, the nation and around the world,” he said. “Our estimated economic impact in Missouri is close to $1 billion annually.”

Similar Great Missouri Birding Trail celebrations will also occur during May in Rolla, Kansas City, Columbia, Kirksville and St. Louis.

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

Sarah.Kendrick@mdc.mo.gov.