Always Coming Home
90 percent. Land use changes and loss of habitat are the largest and most obvious obstacles that birds encounter on migration.
Fortunately, numerous bird conservation partnerships work to conserve important habitat both in Missouri and beyond. That, in concert with sound science and land management in Missouri, ensures that our birds return each spring and summer.
“Our goal is to keep common birds common,” says Department Ornithologist Brad Jacobs. “Many of these birds are showing steep declines, and some are truly in jeopardy. There is no magical way to help all birds by doing one thing in one place. For example, we’ve got 18 species of warblers that all go someplace different.”
Improving Local Habitat
If you’ve ever been on a long road trip, you know how nerve-racking it can be to run out of gas. Now imagine you’re a bird, like a bobolink that finished raising its young in Harrison County and is now beginning a 6,000-mile southward migration. On that long journey from Harrison County to Argentina, South America, finding adequate food to fuel your flight is paramount to survival. Fortunately, the habitat improvements made for quail, turkey, and other resident wildlife in Missouri have the added benefit of helping migratory birds that are beginning, or are in the middle of, their yearly trek.
“As you improve habitat on your land for quail, turkey, or deer, remember that you’re also providing much needed fuel and shelter for migratory birds,” says Clint Dalbom, Department agriculture liaison. “For example, creating nesting and brood-rearing habitat for quail also benefits a suite of migratory grassland birds, including bobolinks. Every August, you can watch these birds gather in flocks as they prepare to leave their nesting grounds in northern Missouri to winter in balmy Brazil and Argentina, a round trip of approximately 12,000 miles.”
Last year, the Department made more than 5,500 on-site visits with landowners and homeowners to assist with grassland and woodland management, and improvements to stream banks and riparian corridors.
“The benefits of planting native warm-season grass, edge feathering fields, or improving your woodlands by thinning them out can provide ideal nesting cover for many migrant birds, as well as a host of other species, like quail and wild turkeys,” Dalbom says. “When we manage for short, shrubby grassland habitat, we benefit migrants such as prairie warblers, field sparrows, and blue-winged warblers, as well as some of our favorite permanent