Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Birds in My Backyard

When most people think of the birds in their backyard, they think of the Northern Cardinal or the Mourning Dove.
A Northern Cardinal at a backyard bird feeder (photo: Gay Schroer)

When I think of the birds that I see in or near my backyard I think of the Barred Owl and the Red-tailed Hawk that frequent the big oak tree in the neighbor’s yard.  Songbirds are the first birds that come to mind for most individuals, but I oftentimes think of the predatory species found in and around my neck of the woods.  The Saint Louis area is well populated with various species of birds of prey.  To the surprise of many, they live in our very own neighborhoods.

Many bird of prey species found in Saint Louis are not here by mistake.  Rather, they are part of a successful population coexisting with their human neighbors.  We can find about 14 species of predatory birds in Saint Louis.  Some of the most common species are the Barred Owl, Great Horned Owl, Eastern Screech Owl, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Red- shouldered Hawk and the American Kestrel.
A juvenile Cooper's Hawk perched on a neighboring fence (photo: Gay Schroer)

Other species are only found in particular areas during certain times of year.  Summertime sightings may include Mississippi Kites, Peregrine Falcons, and Broad-Winged Hawks.  Winter weather brings in Sharp-Shinned Hawks, Northern Saw-whet Owls, and Bald Eagles.

A juvenile Red-tailed Hawk devouring a starling it has just caught in my backyard (photo: Gay Schroer)
Predatory birds have found Saint Louis to be a nice place to call home.  The Peregrine Falcons nesting atop the AT&T building downtown, the Great-Horned Owls that live in Forest Park, and all the other birds mentioned fill a niche that cannot be occupied by any other organism.  For that, we should take the time to appreciate their beauty and roles in our ecosystem. People often view predatory animals as “bad” or “scary,” but they play a very important part in keeping prey species populations in check.
A fledgling Red-tailed Hawk rehabilitated and released by WBS (photo: Adam Triska)

To see some of the birds of prey that may inhabit your neighborhood visit the World Bird Sanctuary and become familiar with these local denizens.  Your visit to WBS may help you to identify that strange large bird that just whizzed past your window.

Submitted by Adam Triska, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

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