In spring, the bird world becomes very visual and vocal. Bird activities in spring bring a variety of sights and sounds into the Ozarks that can be enjoyed by birders of all skill levels.
If you’re looking for a good reason to get your family or just yourself outdoors, now is a great time to plan a birding trip.
You’re not a birder, you say? Well, it doesn’t matter. Grab a bird book and a pair of binoculars, go outside and start looking and listening. In spring, the bird world becomes very visual and vocal. Bird activities in spring bring a variety of sights and sounds into the Ozarks that can be enjoyed by birders of all skill levels.
One reason now is a good time for birding is that spring is when bird color is at its peak. Cardinals, bluebirds and other species known for bright tones are displaying their showiest hues. Even birds on the drab end of the color spectrum may have brown or gray markings that, at this time of year, appear in more striking tones than is seen on these species at other times of year.
The primary reason for these bright colors, which are seen on the males of most bird species, is that they make males more visual to females. Conversely, the female bird’s bland coloring also has a benefit. Since females will be sitting on nests and rearing young (in most species), a drab coloring helps them blend in with their surroundings and avoid predators.
Bird song, which is also more common in males than females, is abundant in spring for a couple of reasons: One is that males are trying to get the females’ attention. Some bird “songs” are also the calls of males who are defending – or announcing – their territory to other males. Although bird song can be heard throughout the day, it’s most abundant in the morning (particularly in the early-morning dusk-to-just-after-sunrise period).
Another advantage of spring birding is that you may be fortunate enough to see a migratory species that isn’t a year-round resident here. Missouri is on the migration routes of a number of species and now is when many of them are passing through. You probably won’t see a Baltimore oriole, rose-breasted grosbeak or a pelican on every outing, but if you make enough trips in spring, chances are you’ll see something unusual.
Birding can be done in a variety of setting. You can start in your backyard or, if you live in the country, in the acres around your house. City parks, walking trails and other urban and suburban locations can offer close-to-home bird-viewing opportunities. Lakes and wetland areas can also be productive birding sites. Numerous Missouri Department of Conservation areas in this region provide great birding opportunities, but keep in mind that many Department areas will be open to turkey huning soon. Missouri’s spring turkey season is April 16-May 6. Shooting hours are a half-hour before sunrise to 1 p.m. If you plan to visit locations where hunting may be taking place, it would be wise to schedule spring birding trips around those dates and times or plan trips to areas where hunting isn’t permitted like the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Springfield Conservation Nature Center.
Bird feeders can bring many species to your back yard. However, if your goal is to get outside, feeder watching should merely serve as species identification practice for your next birding trip.
Birding information is available in the form of free literature at many Missouri Department of Conservation offices or at mdc.mo.gov.
Francis Skalicky is the media specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Southwest Region. For information about conservation issues, call 417-895-6880.