Watching Wildlife

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Published on: Sep. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 27, 2010

are busy seasons for wildlife. Carnivores and rodents breed in spring and are most active from March through June. Birds are in their brightest plumage in spring and ready to find a mate. Courting behaviors, such as the booming of prairie chickens or the strutting of turkeys, can be exciting to witness. Nocturnal animals, especially owls and flying squirrels, are active in summer at twilight. Fall migrations of waterfowl, shorebirds and raptors are more dramatic and longer lasting than spring migrations.

Call ahead to a site if you want to catch peak migrations of waterfowl, shorebirds or bald eagles, for the weather can quickly change viewing conditions. Eagle watching is most spectacular December through early February in Missouri. White-tailed deer and wild turkey bunch in winter; watch for small groups of them feeding in openings or fields late in the day.

If you have a bird feeder, you have probably learned that storms can be good for viewing wildlife, with peak activity before and after rain or snow. For night calls, owls begin in late January, while coyotes and foxes are good listening from December through summer.


Outfitted with just a couple of field guides and binoculars, you have the basic tools to make your trip exciting. A spotting scope is especially helpful for water birds. Use binoculars or a scope to scan open areas, hillsides, bluffs, lakes and stream banks.

Look in bookstores for field guides to birds, mammals, plants and others. Half the fun of seeing and identifying a new species is reading about it afterward to learn more of its habits and habitats.

Learn about the habitats you're going to visit. Most field guides have general habitat descriptions in the front. More specific references are available about primary habitats in the state including forests, grasslands, river bottomlands, rivers and streams, wetlands and caves and springs.

Cassette tape recorders can help you capture and learn bird songs and frog calls. Don't forget your camera.

Observation Skills

Stop, look and listen as you go. Hike into the wind and avoid noisy ground covered with leaves and sticks. Walk slowly and quietly. Wear clothes that blend with the habitat. Sometimes using your car, truck or boat as a viewing blind is less disturbing to wildlife and allows you to watch animals go about their routines.

A pond or stream bank is a good place to sit and watch for

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