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Do Birds Excite You?

When I was growing up, my friend and I spent an entire summer gathering castoff bird feathers from around our homes in the Allegheny Plateau country of northern Pennsylvania. This was full time employment for two 10 year-olds! We searched creek bottoms, hillsides and ridgetops. We named some of the sites for the feathers we found there. For example, we visited "turkey country," "kingfisher creek"and "barred owl mountain." Birds struck by cars or killed by predators provided volumes of feathers. By autumn, our bird feather collection covered the entire surface of a Ping Pong table. What a great way to spend the summer!

Three or four years later, hunting with my father in a creek-bottom woodland, I swung a single-barrel 20-gauge at a flushing ruffed grouse. This was the first time I had shot at anything other than clay targets. Miracle of miracles--the bird folded on the shot, dropping directly into a rain-swollen creek. We pursued the bobbing grouse for nearly a quarter mile, struggling to keep pace with a raging current. Nothing -- absolutely nothing -- could have prevented my retrieving that beautiful bird. Had Dad not been there, I'd have jumped into the cold water. Fortunately, he was there, and so we were able to bring the bird to the bank with a long stick. After the chase was over, I thought, "There's nothing to this wing shooting." Yet, I would not bag another grouse for four years.

Birds were an important part of my development in many other ways. For example, I earned a bird study merit badge as a Boy Scout. I took numerous ornithology classes in college and participated in bird surveys as a graduate student. The sights and sounds of birds enriched countless outdoor adventures.

Wild birds generate excitement, passion, and enthusiasm. Some people spend a lot of time trying to spot as many different species of birds as they can and are thrilled to add a rare bird to their life list of species. Other people enjoy seeing a covey of quail rising from the point of setter, sighting a magnificent wild turkey gobbler over the bead of a shotgun barrel or watching mallards slip through a canopy of bottomland oaks to a spread of decoys on the water below. Backyard bird feeding is extremely popular, providing even more proof that Missourians love wild birds.

The Missouri Bird Conservation Initiative (MoBCI) is a developing partnership of organizations and agencies that get excited about birds. When fully formed, MoBCI will include Audubon Missouri, the Audubon Society of Missouri, Ducks Unlimited, the Missouri Prairie Foundation, the Missouri Falconry Association, the National Wild Turkey Federation, Quail Unlimited, the Ruffed Grouse Society, Webster Groves Nature Study Society, and, we hope, many other non-governmental organizations. It will also include a number of government agencies, including the Conservation Department.

MoBCI's purpose is to work together to conserve and restore bird populations and their habitats. Partners recognize much common ground exists among our organizations. Member organizations enjoy birds in different ways, but we share the beliefs that birds have many values and face many challenges, that mankind has the responsibility to conserve birds, and that bird conservation should be guided by sound science and implemented with effective management programs.

Organizations with deep interests in bird conservation are invited to affiliate with MoBCI. Invitation materials and a commitment agreement are available at the Conservation Department's website, or can be obtained by contacting Audubon Missouri, 2620 Forum Blvd., Suite C-1, Columbia, MO 65203 ((573) 447-2249). MoBCI will be officially launched on May 10, 2003, in conjunction with International Migratory Bird Conservation Day.

Dave Erickson, Wildlife Division Administrator

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