Best Missouri Birding Areas

Top 10 Conservation Areas and Public Lands

Map of top 10 birding areas.

The richer and more diverse the habitat, the more kinds of birds you'll see. The public areas described below are among the best in the state for detecting a variety of birds. The numbers preceding them correspond to the numbers on the map.

  1. Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge (formerly Squaw Creek; 7,193 acres). An extensive wetland in the Missouri River floodplain, this area abounds in geese, ducks and shorebirds during the spring and fall migrations. As many as 400,000 snow geese and 200 bald eagles can be seen in late November and early December. Located southwest of Mound City, the east entrance and visitor center is 2.3 miles west of I-29 by U.S. 159.
  2. Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge (10,670 acres) and Fountain Grove Conservation Area (7,154 acres). In proximity to each other, these prime wetland areas along the Grand River attract waterfowl and shorebirds during migration. White pelicans are common during April and September. Both areas are reached by Highway 139 south of U.S. 36 and west of Brookfield.
  3. Ted Shanks Conservation Area (4,025 acres). Stretching nearly seven miles along the Mississippi River, this area provides extensive marshlands and bottomland forests for many types of birds in all seasons. The forests provide nesting habitat for wood ducks and prothonotary warblers. Rails and bitterns may be found in the pools, and egrets and waterfowl are plentiful in spring and fall. Travel 19 miles south of Hannibal on Highway 79, then one mile east on TT.
  4. Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area (3,656 acres). Situated in the Missouri River floodplain, Eagle Bluffs is a unique wetland because it receives part of its water supply from a city water treatment facility. Herons, egrets and shorebirds can be abundant during September. From I-70 in Columbia, travel south on Highway 163 (Providence Road) 5 miles to County Road K, then west 5 miles past McBaine.
  5. Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary (1,200 acres). This U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wetland, adjacent to the Melvin Price Locks and Dam, is prime resting habitat for migrating wetland birds. During winter it also attracts bald eagles and a wide variety of gulls. Take I-270 north of I-70, 5.3 miles to U.S. 67. Follow 67 north 11.3 miles to entrance road on the right just before the Mississippi River.
  6. August A. Busch Memorial (6,987 acres) and Weldon Spring (7,357 acres) conservation areas. These adjoining areas are a mix of extensive field and woodland habitats. The Busch Area contains lakes of varied sizes. Birding is generally good from March through early May. From the junction of U.S. 40/ 61 and Highway 94, proceed southwest on 94, 1 mile to the entrance on the right side of the road.
  7. Taberville Prairie (1,680 acres) and Schell-Osage (8,633 acres) conservation areas. Taberville Prairie is habitat for birds such as greater prairie chickens, upland sandpipers and Henslow's sparrows. Schell-Osage hosts a variety of wetland species. Taberville Prairie is 13 miles north of El Dorado Springs on County Road H. Schell-Osage, 10 miles north of El Dorado Springs, may be entered from the east via H, then Y, or from the west via AA, then RA.
  8. Hercules Glades Wilderness (12,314 acres). This portion of the Mark Twain National Forest is a roadless wilderness with foot paths. Its dry, rocky terrain is attractive to prairie warblers and more southwestern species, including greater roadrunners and painted buntings. From U.S. 160 east of Forsyth, drive north 8 miles on Highway 125.
  9. Ozark National Scenic Riverways (65,000 acres). This National Park Service property narrowly encompasses the Jacks Fork and Current rivers. It offers excellent woodland and stream birding. From the shore or canoe you will see summering birds, which might include green herons, Louisiana waterthrushes and Northern parulas. The area may be accessed by several highways in Carter and Shannon counties.
  10. Mingo National Wildlife Refuge (22,000 acres) and Duck Creek Conservation Area (6,233 acres). These adjoining areas contain extensive forests, swamps, marshes and bluffs, and support the greatest diversity of birds of any public lands in Missouri. Well over 100 species are present at the peak of spring migration. Northeast of Poplar Bluff, the areas are entered from Highway 51 north of Puxico.

Still itching for more?

The Great Missouri Birding Trail offers an interactive map of the best places to bird across Missouri, as well as information on ways you can help birds, tips and tricks for beginners, and other aspects of bird conservation.