How About Those Birds?

Birds are well-known and appreciated in Missouri. About four in every five residents feed wild birds, and one in four is willing to travel to watch them.

Lots of people contact the Department of Conservation to ask questions about birds. Here are the answers to 10 of the most frequently asked questions.

Q: How are bald eagles doing in Missouri?

A: The bald eagle has rebounded nationwide as a result of the banning of the insecticide known as DDT and the success of reintroduction programs, such as the one undertaken by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and other partners in Missouri during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Missouri boasts one of the highest wintering bald eagle populations in the lower 48 states. Usually, more than 2,200 eagles are encountered during our annual winter waterfowl and eagle surveys. In the winter, they can be found along any large, open body of water, where they feed mostly on dead fish.

We also have a breeding population of bald eagles. Roughly 75 to 100 pairs nest in Missouri, and the number grows every year.

MDC tracks bald eagle nests in Missouri. If you find a bald eagle nest in your area, please report it to us by calling (573) 751-4115.

Q: I have a hawk that regularly hunts at my bird feeder. What is it?

A: Two species of hawks, the Cooper’s hawk and the sharp-shinned hawk, commonly hunt birds at backyard bird feeders.

The two species closely resemble one another. Adults of both species have dark, grayish-blue backs with red barring on the belly, while immatures have brown backs with brown streaking underneath. They are longer and more slender than other hawks. This adaptation allows them to maneuver through tight spaces in pursuit of other birds. Cooper’s hawks usually are larger, tend to have larger, darker heads and more rounded tails, and are more common than sharp-shinned hawks.

Many people enjoy having hawks around and view them as just another backyard bird. The number of birds killed by hawks is low, and the presence of hawks should not keep birds from visiting your feeder.

If you prefer to discourage hawks, temporarily remove the feeder and they may leave the area. Never poison, shoot or trap hawks, as this is a violation of both federal and state laws.

Q: What impact is West Nile Virus having on birds?

A: West Nile Virus (WNV) is a mosquito-borne virus that was first identified in New York City