Missouri is positioned perfectly amidst the great North American heartland, at a place where both north and south intersect, and prairies meet the regional wildlife and flora of both. This unique location allows the state to provide its visitors a chance to see a vast array of Missouri birds and plant species that simply cannot be found in nearby Upper Midwestern states. While the state is located east of center, one still feels the influence of the West when you spy a Great Roadrunner or a Swainson’s Hawk.
Known as the Show Me State, Missouri certainly has a way of displaying all 435 species of birds to residents and visitors alike. Missouri’s natural features are delineated by acres of sweeping rural land with portions of the prairie to the north and west, the densely forested Ozarks, and the flatly fertile plain that composes the south and southeast.
These natural environments make the state a refuge for both forested species of Missouri birds, like the Cerulean Warbler and birds that prefer the open country such as the Dickcissel.
It wasn’t that long ago when St. Louis Audubon celebrated its centennial. Because fate has seen fit to place them right next to the Mississippi flyway, it means that St. Louis residents are uniquely situated to appreciate and delight in the migratory season up close.
Favorable chances for birding are at hand all year long. Spring is an especially propitious time because the warblers are migrating and urban birders have the glorious opportunity to see around three dozen different species as they soar by.
What Are the Most Common Missouri Birds?
1. American Robin
- A migratory songbird that is gray-brown with a warm orange breast and a dark head and grayish back.
- When seen flying look for a white patch on the lower stomach and underneath the tail.
- While both males and females are quite alike, the females have a duller coloring and a slighter lighter head.
- Eyes are partly circled by a white ring.
Because American Robins can survive in a variety of different habitats they are found everywhere from back yards to forests, farms and parks. They migrate north in the summer, and then move on to the southernmost parts of the U.S. for warmer
climates in winter.
These birds sing early in the morning, even beating the sunrise. They hop cheerfully about the lawn turning their heads in a constant search for food. Relatively tame around humans.
Usually can be found on the ground seeking earthworms, grubs and other insects. Also like fruits and berries. Will not find them at a bird feeder as they don’t particularly care for birdseed.
2. Northern Cardinal
- Slightly smaller than the American Robin, with a full body and long wide tail.
- The male is a vivid red with a black face and sporting a crested head. The female is more of a dun color with traces of red in the tail and wings, and is also crested with a black face.
Cardinals are permanent residents of Missouri. They can be seen in thickets, hedges, woodlands, back yards, and in general any brushy areas.
Both the male and female cardinals can sing. The male settle upon an electrical wire, top of a tree or roof and use its song to attract a female for mating. When nesting a female cardinal will sing from the nest so that her mate knows that she wants him to bring her some food. Normally three to four eggs are laid in a nest, and this occurs two to four times a year.
Cardinals typically search the ground for insects, seeds, berries and other fruits which they consume. They will visit bird feeders, particularly enjoying sunflower seeds.
3. Blue Jay
- Similar to the American Robin in size. Its coloring is blue on top and white below with a black collar about its neck, and white in its wings.
- It has a large head with a crest on top and a long tail. This bird has particularly strong legs.
Oak and pine forests, woodlands, backyards. Particularly fond of oak or beech trees.
Quite smart and versatile, the Blue Jay is one of the loudest and most raucous birds of any area its found in. Can also be a bully with smaller birds. Along with their harsh jay! jay! call, they can also hit a wide array of musical notes, and are expert mimics. They can be quiet and sly when raiding the nest of another bird. Normally lays 4-5, perhaps 7 eggs, which both parents watch over.
Will come to back yard feeders to eat suet or seeds. Hits hard-shelled seeds or nuts with its bill to open them. Will eat berries and small fruits, beechnuts, seeds, insects, the eggs of other birds, and will actually collect acorns and keep them in holes in the ground.
4. Mourning Dove
- A bit smaller than a domestic pigeon with a full body and rounded head, the mourning dove is a gray brown color with a long, pointed tail and black spotted wings.
- Known for its mournful cooing, this gentle little bird is one of the most common birds around.
Found in semi-open locations like grasslands, farms, forest clearings, prairies, back yards, and woods. Relatively tame, they are frequently spotted sitting on fences and rooftops.
Wary, but not generally afraid of people, this bird is a prolific breeder. In fact, Mourning Doves may have as many as six broods annually, far more than the average bird.
Diet consists almost entirely of seeds. Will come to feeders especially for black oil sunflower seeds, but usually prefers to feed while remaining on the ground underneath the feeder. Fills crop with seeds, then takes off to let them digest while they rest.
5. Red-bellied Woodpecker
- Truly a bird of the southeast, where it seeks refuge in swamps and woods near rivers.
- A bit smaller than a Northern Flicker in size, with a large head and light gray body appearing almost white, with black-and-white stripes across the back and wings. It has a red nape that reaches to the top of the head on males.
Settled into many varying woodlands such as hickory, oak and pine. Also found in orchards, groves, and forests located near rivers and swamps.
Will climb tree trunk and branches in search of insects. Will perch amidst branches in order to pick berries and nuts. Loud and harsh call. Usually has 4-5 eggs, although on occasion there have been as many as 8. Both parents feed the young.
As most woodpeckers do, the Red-bellied Woodpecker will dine on a variety of insects. Will eat nuts, including peanuts when provided and eat suet as well if given a suet block. Also consumes acorns, wild fruits, and seeds.
What Are Winter Birds of Missouri?
1. Carolina Wren
- Small bird comparable to the size of a House Finch or an American Goldfinch.
- Rust-colored upper parts with buff underparts and a white throat and eyebrows. Black bars featured on the wings and tail.
- Curved body with a short neck and flat head, the tail is long.
Can be found in shrubs and brush, farms, and in backyards. Will venture to explore parks and ravines.
Very territorial for a little guy. Will absolutely defend their territory and chase intruders away. They do not migrate, so they are found in the same areas all year long. Will happily visit bird feeders.
These birds enjoy the process of preening their feathers and will actually take dust baths as part of the preening ritual. Furthermore, they usually enjoy a bit of a sun bath after they have completed their preening.
Carolina wrens will mate for life. Females lay from 4-8 eggs at a time. It is the job of the female to incubate the eggs, while the male will provide her with food. They normally have 2 broods annually.
The main source of food for Carolina wrens is various insects and spiders. They prefer moths, caterpillars, beetles, and grasshoppers just to name few of their likes, but they can also be found devouring frogs and lizards. They consume bayberry, nuts and fruit as well.
2. Cedar Waxwing
- This is a medium-sized bird with a large head, a black mask on the face and crest on the head.
- The body is sleek and covered with a grey-brown feathering, while the under part is yellow. The short tail has a yellow or orange band. The chin and throat of the males are black.
- The Cedar Waxwing was given its name due to the red, wax-like drops that appear on the tips of the wings.
The Cedar Waxwing can be found in forests, grasslands, fields and near streams. It will also stop in your backyard if you are growing certain ornamental bushes that has tasty berries they love.
An interesting fact about Cedar Waxwings is that they can sometimes consume large amounts of fruit that is over-ripe and as a result, has converted sugar into alcohol. This can make them become quite intoxicated, and sometimes leads to fatalities from flying into windows, etc.
This bird is quite social and lives and makes its nests in large flocks of up to a few hundred birds. They can create a high-pitched trills and whistles. They usually have one or two broods a year, with the female laying 2-6 eggs. Both parents take part in feeding the young.
They are partial to winterberries, mulberries, elderberries, and wild cherries. In the summer months they will add insects to their diet.
3. Dark-Eyed Junco
- Small, round birds around the size of a House Finch.
- Rounded head, with dark gray body and white stomach. Rather long square tail.
Dislikes heavy brush, and gravitates toward widely spaced bushes. Will visit suburban back yards remaining on the ground to feed.
A flock may spread out, keeping contact with each other by continually calling back and forth. Male will find a high perch and sing loudly to fend off intruders to its nesting territory. Females lay 3-5 and on occasion as many as 6 eggs. Both parents cooperate in feeding the young.
Eats primarily seeds and insects. Dines on beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers, spiders, etc. Consumes large amounts of weed and grass seed, and will sometimes eat berries.
4. Tufted Titmouse
- A small bird, the Tufted Titmouse is bigger than a chickadee, leaning more toward the size of a Junco or House Finch.
- With a full, round body, this crested bird is a blue-gray color above and has a white stomach, with a rusty patch on the flank.
Can be found in forests with a heavy canopy, shade trees, and will come to backyard bird feeders. They favor black oil sunflower seeds and suet.
Not as social as some other birds, Tufted Titmouse pairs do not routinely hang out in larger flocks once the breeding season has passed.
They are also notorious for hoarding food in the fall and winter months. They will repeatedly come to a bird feeder to take away and store plenty of seeds. Normally, the storage sites are relatively near the feeder.
The female lays 5-6 eggs, or occasionally 3-9. When they are first born the female remains with the young while the male brings the food. As they grow, both parents then feed the young.
The Tufted Titmouse will eat a diet primarily consisting of insects and seeds. They will eat caterpillars, wasps, bees, beetles, as well as insect eggs and young. Furthermore, they eat certain spiders, nuts, berries, and small fruits.
5. Black-Capped Chickadee
- There’s no denying that these are small birds, about the same size as an American Goldfinch. They have rounded bodies with a black cap and bib, and white cheeks.
- Their backs, wings and tail are gray, with a white stomach and buff sides.
- Their alert, interested black eyes and gentle manner are part of their charm.
Black -Capped Chickadees are very easy to find. They like to be in the woods, marshes, thickets of willows, fields, and backyards.
These are active and curious birds that get along well with people as well as with each other. They don’t go it solo either, living in flocks. The female usually lays 6-8 eggs, but this can vary sometimes being more, sometimes less. While the female is sitting on the nest, the male will bring food to her. The female will remain with the young in the beginning, and the male will bring food. Later, both parents will collect food for the young.
Consumes primarily insects, berries, and seeds. Its diet changes according to the season, where its summer diet is generally caterpillars, other insects, some spiders, snails, and berries. Not afraid to come to bird feeders containing seeds or suet. Will frequently store food, going back to it later on.
Featured Missouri BIrds
1. Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Brought over from Germany, the Eurasian Tree Sparrow arrived in St. Louis in 1870. There, two dozen birds were set free in Lafayette Park. The transplanted birds would have done quite well, had they not been forced to share their new habitat with their first cousin, the House Sparrow. The Eurasian Tree Sparrow is smaller than the House Sparrow, and much less combative. So, over time it has yielded to its tougher opponent. It hasn’t been until the last three decades that it has finally managed to expand its range west and north, and this hasn’t been by much.
Tree Sparrows have deep brown crowns and napes, rounded heads, black throats, white cheeks set with a black cheek patch on each one, and light gray stomachs. Both sexes of Tree Sparrow are marked the same and all maintain the brown crown.
Consumes mainly seeds and insects. Will eat grain found in fields.
The female lays 4-6 eggs at a time and may have 2 or 3 broods a year. Both parents feed the young.
2. Painted Bunting
Without a doubt the Painted Bunting is the most colorful bird you’ll come across in the state of Missouri. With their riotous colors of blue, red, yellow, and green the males are almost blinding. Females are a unique bright green. These birds are generally found around areas of dense brush and woodlands. They will come to backyard feeders, but are rather shy and prefer to remain hidden amongst the foliage.
They eat mainly seeds and insects found on the ground. The seeds are usually those of grasses and weeds, although they will on occasion eat berries and fruits. Will consume grasshoppers, caterpillars, flies, etc.
Males will engage in some heavy-duty fighting to defend territory, and one male can have more than one mate. Females lay 3-4 eggs, which number can be as high as 5. The female feeds the young. They normally produce 2-3 broods a year.
3. Western Kingbird
Although the Western Kingbird is a relatively rare find in Missouri, it does regularly visit western Missouri to breed. A unique bird with a gray back, head, and chest, its noted for its yellow stomach and white throat. It sports a black tail outlined in white.
It can be seen sitting on roadside fences and electrical wires, but prefers partially open countryside, farms, groves, will visit towns. Not exactly a mild-mannered bird, it will go after hawks, ravens, or any other type of large bird that comes too close to their nest.
The Western Kingbird primarily eats insects, but this includes a vast array. From wasps, beetles, and grasshoppers, to flies, caterpillars, moths, and lots of others too. It will even consume certain spiders and a small quantity of berries or fruits. Known as a flycatcher, due to its propensity for watching steadily from its perch, and then suddenly bursting forth to snap insects right out of the air.
The female lays 3-5 eggs, but in rare instances there can be as many as 7 eggs. Both parents take care of feeding the young.
4. Prothonotary Warbler
This beautiful bird has a head, neck, breast, and stomach that a vivid yellow, with wings that a blue-gray with white underneath. The female is not as spectacularly colored as the male. Has a tendency to happily hop along tree branches like a constantly moving sun.
This bird can be found in swamps of cypress, and among hardwood trees such as ash, buttonbush, black willow, sweetgum, red maple, elm and hackberry.
Feeds on insects and snails, particularly aquatic insects, as well as caterpillars, mayflies, ants, etc., and seeds.
When it comes to nesting, the males settle on the nesting grounds in the early part of April, around a week ahead of the females arrival. Female lays 4-6 eggs and sometimes as many as 8. The young are given food by both parents.
5. Black Vulture
Like it or not, the Black Vulture has taken up lasting residence in Missouri. Known as an excellent scavenger, it is quite easy to identify even in a flock of Turkey Vultures. For one thing, the Black Vulture’s wings are broader and flap much faster, and they have gray feet. In addition, their tails are a great deal shorter, and their wings are flat rather than the V-shape of their relative’s. Don’t assume from all of this that they are inferior to the Turkey Vultures. They can send these relatives into frightened flight when they want to.
It seeks out open country and doesn’t settle on high mountains. Usually located in flat lowlands, will search for food in open country, but prefers to nets in forest. Dislikes open water.
Flies at a great height when searching for food, keeping an eye out for carrion and nothing how other vultures around it are acting to determine whether or not they have found food.
Eats carrion most of the time. Will feed off of the carcasses of animals of all sizes. Also will eat the eggs of other birds, lizards, and turtles. Furthermore, will eat coconuts and even rotting vegetables.
Females lay 2, sometimes 1 or 3 eggs. Both males and females take turns at incubation and feeding the young. Nest is usually on the ground in a thicket, or inside a big tree cavity.
What is the most common bird In Missouri?
You might be surprised to learn that the most common bird in Missouri is the Raven. A very big bird with an entirely black body, and dense, powerful beak, the Raven sports a wedged tail and makes its home in forests and among the dry mountains and deserts. It consumes insects, refuse, carrion, and the eggs of other birds, along with rodents.
What birds are blue in Missouri?
The Indigo Bunting and the Eastern Bluebird are the most common blue birds in Missouri.
What Missouri birds stay for the winter?
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How many species of birds are there in Missouri?
There are 435 species officially listed; including 3 that once lived here but have moved on, 5 that are extinct, and 11 that are provisional. Not to mention the many birds that are either casual or accidental visitors. These equal around 80 or so more, so the real species count is around 330.
2. Other common birds you might see from your backyard in Missouri?
1. Northern Cardinal
2. Mourning Dove
3. Dark-Eyed Junco
4. American Robin
5. Blue Jay
6. Indigo Bunting
7. Downy Woodpecker
8. American Goldfinch
9. Red-bellied Woodpecker
10. Tufted Titmouse
Are there ravens in Missouri?
The Raven is the most common bird in Missouri.
What birds are illegal to kill in Missouri?
You cannot kill migratory birds in Missouri, including species like the Black Vulture or any type of raptor such as a hawk, mourning doves are protected as well, along with black birds and the like. Most birds are also protected by federal regulations
What birds can you shoot in Missouri?
Since the European Starling is not a native of the U.S., it is not protected by state or federal regulations.
When do humming birds leave Missouri?
They generally undertake their fall migration southward from mid-August until early October.
What kind of bluebirds nest in Northeast Missouri?
The Eastern Bluebird and Indigo Bunting.
What birds are considered pests in Missouri?
- Red-winged Blackbirds
- Common Grackle
- European Starling
- Brown-headed cowbird
- Common Pigeon
When will the Hummingbirds arrive in Missouri?
Hummingbirds arrive in Missouri in April and May when they make their nests and have their young.
Which birds in Missouri are migratory?
Martins, wrens, warblers, thrushes, kinglets, vireos, sparrows and hummingbirds.
What birds of Missouri have red breasts?
The Rose-breasted grosbeak, house finch, American robin, and summer tanger.
What Missouri birds nest in the ground?
When do Bluebirds lay eggs in Missouri?
The Eastern bluebird will usually have 3 broods from March to August. The Indigo bunting will normally lay its eggs between May and September.
Audubon.org — https://www.audubon.org/field-guide
Bird Watcher’s Digest — https://www.birdwatchersdigest.com
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