Top 15 BEST Birds of Missouri

Birds of Missouri
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Birds of Missouri: There are 3 major habitats in the state of Missouri, namely the Mark Twain Forest National Park, wetlands, and urban areas. That is why this state has a variety of wading and water birds.

The forests have various raptor and owl species, as well as enchanting songbirds. Some birds have also adapted well to urban living.

Many migratory species make a stopover in Missouri for either a quick snack or a long – term stay to produce young. See some of the examples of local variety here.

Birds of Missouri

Here are the top 15 Missouri birds and their fascinating fun facts along with where can one spot each of them in the State of Missouri.

1. Eastern bluebird (State Bird of Missouri)

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Passeriformes Turdidae Sialia Sialia sialis

Eastern BluebirdThis beautiful small bird of Missouri is so beloved by people that it was proclaimed a state bird both by Missouri and New York.

  • These birds are small, round, with a small head and a short bill.
  • The male eastern bluebirds have a bright blue back, head, and wings.
  • The chest and throat of the male bluebirds are rusty, and the belly white.
  • The female bluebirds have more subdued coloring: the head and back are grey, the wings bluish, and the chest has less prominent rusty color.
  • The legs and tail of the eastern bluebirds are relatively short, while the wings are relatively long compared to their body size.
  • These birds like to perch on branches and watch over everything with bright, large eyes.
Where can you spot Eastern bluebirds in Missouri?
Bird WatchingA birdwatcher that wants to see them in their natural environment can visit, for instance, St. Louis City and Howard Counties.

One can observe bluebirds either along the bluebird trails with nesting boxes or in areas that both have open grasslands and trees with cavities.

Source: “PROGRAM FULL: Bluebird Walk | Howard County Conservancy”. Accessed October 26, 2019. Link.

Interesting facts about eastern bluebirds:

  • One of the most dangerous enemies of the eastern bluebirds is the house sparrow – it can attack and kill the nesting birds.
  • The Eastern bluebirds can be seen in Missouri both in winter and in warm months.
  • There is an increased need for nesting boxes for bluebirds, as there is a shortage with proper trees with cavities suitable for the nests.
  • Eastern bluebirds can live up to 10 years.
  • Eastern bluebirds cooperate in defending their nests or nesting boxes against such predators as foxes and sparrows.

2. Painted bunting

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Passeriformes Cardinalidae Passerina Passerina ciris

Painted BuntingThe next Missouri bird in our list is the painted bunting. It is one of the most colorful Missouri birds.

  • This songbird is stocky and resembles a finch in size and overall body shape. The painted bunted considered a rare species, especially in Missouri.
  • The most prominent feature of this bunting is the coloring, especially in male birds.
  • The male plumage of this bunting combines multiple colors: the head of the is blue, the back is lemon green, and the belly and rump are red.
  • The male buntings also have a bright red eyering visible over the blue feathers.
  • The females are less brightly colored: they are yellow-green with a pale ring around the eye.
Where can you spot painted buntings in Missouri?
Bird WatchingImmature males are colored similar to females. There are several right places in Missouri to meet painted buntings: Bush water Lake, Ozark Greenways, Roaring River State Park, and Busiek State Forest and Wildlife Area, as well as several other regions.

Source: “Nonpareil: The Bird Without Equal – Great Missouri Birding Trail”. Accessed October 26, 2019. Link.

Interesting facts about painted buntings:

  • The painted bunting has a famous nickname in French – “non pareil“, without equal.
  • This Missouri bird likes to hide in the dense brush and can be found by its song.
  • Painted buntings arrive in Missouri in late April or early May.
  • During the breeding season, the painted bunting switches from seeds to insects to get more protein.
  • These birds are often victims of illegal trapping.

3. Cedar waxwing

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Passeriformes Bombycillidae Bombycilla Bombycilla cedrorum

Cedar WaxwingA cedar waxwing is a sleek bird of medium size from Missouri with a large head, short, wide bill, and a short neck.

  • The head and shoulders of the waxwing are brown, and there is a prominent crest on the head.
  • There are symmetrical dark stripes around the eyes that come down to the bill underlined with white.
  • The back and wings of the cedar waxwing are soft grays.
  • The wings of the waxwing are pointed at the end, and there are small red waxy tips on some of the wing feathers.
  • The belly of the cedar waxwing is pale yellow.
Where can you spot cedar waxwings in Missouri?
Bird WatchingThese birds are not common in Missouri, and most likely can be spotted around Ozark Border and Osage Plains Natural Divisions.

Source: “Cedar Waxwing | MDC Discover Nature”. Accessed October 26, 2019. Link.

Interesting facts about cedar waxwings:

  • Cedar waxwings eat fruit and berries in winter and switch to insects in summer.
  • Cedar waxwing can get intoxicated and die if they overeat overripe fruit.
  • These birds are very social and even eat their berries together in flocks.
  • Cedar waxwings are essential for seed dissemination, as they eat the fruit whole and then release the seeds together with their excrements.
  • Cedar waxwings are monogamous and have complicated mating rituals.

4. Red-winged blackbird

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Passeriformes Icteridae Agelaius Agelaius phoeniceus

Red-Winged BlackbirdThe red-winged blackbird is a stocky Missouri bird with broad shoulders and typical conical bill often seen in blackbirds.

  • The males are black overall except bright red patches on the shoulders that have a thin yellow border.
  • The females are completely different in coloring – they are brown with prominent streaks.
  • The bill of the female red-winged blackbird is a little smaller and has some yellow patches around it.
  • The red-winged blackbird is one of the most common blackbirds in Missouri.
  • This bird is widespread statewide and prefers wet and marshy areas.
Where can you spot Red-winged blackbirds in Missouri?
Bird WatchingAccording to the Missouri Department of conservation, Aspenwall bend is a great place to see those blackbirds. It also can be seen in Ozarks grasslands.

Source: “Aspinwall Bend WMA “ – eBird Hotspots. Accessed October 26, 2019. Link.

Interesting Facts about Red-winged blackbirds:

  • The first description of Agelauis phoeniceus was published by Carl Linnaeus in 1766.
  • These birds tend to form huge flocks for migration.
  • These birds are very bold and are known to attack bigger birds if they think they are a threat to the nest.
  • The male displays his red shoulder patches when he is singing.
  • One male red-winged blackbird can mate with several female birds.

5. American Goldfinch

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Passeriformes Fringillidae Spinus Spinus tristis

American GoldfinchThe American Goldfinch is a very bright representative of the finch family of birds from Missouri.

  • An American Goldfinch is small, with a short, notched tail and a short conical bill.
  • The breeding male goldfinches are overall yellow with a black forehead and black wings that have white markings.
  • The females are pale green and olive green with black wings.
  • Non-breeding males are dull brown with streaked black wings.
Where can you spot American goldfinches in Missouri?
Bird WatchingThis Missouri bird is distributed statewide, but there some places where it is more likely to be spotted, such as Diana Bend and Frost Island conservation areas.

Source: “American Goldfinch | MDC Discover Nature”. Accessed October 26, 2019. Link.

Interesting facts about American goldfinches:

  • American goldfinches nesting period coincides with the time when thistles form their seeds, as thistles are one of the primary food sources for these birds.
  • American goldfinches feed almost exclusively on seeds and even feed half-digested seed pulp to their young.
  • The nest of the American goldfinch is so well-made it may hold water.
  • American goldfinches have six different types of calls.
  • A chick of a parasitic bird such as a cowbird cannot survive in the goldfinches’ nest because of the peculiar diet of this species.

6. Snowy Egret

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Pelecaniformes Ardeidae Egretta Egretta thula

Snowy EgretThe snowy egret is considered endangered Bird Species in Missouri and is currently protected by law.

  • The snowy egret is of medium size, with a long black bill and bright yellow feet.
  • The overall plumage is snow-white, as the name itself suggests.
  • There is a patch of bare yellow skin near the eyes.
Where can you spot snowy egrets in Missouri?
Bird WatchingThese Missouri birds like to nest in colonies. Egret rookeries were spotted in St. Louis, Missouri, around Forest Park.

Source: “Tree trimmers damage St. Louis heron rookery — BirdWatching”. Accessed October 26, 2019. Link.

Interesting facts about snowy egrets:

  • One of the reasons the snowy egret is endangered is due to the fact it was actively hunted in the 1800s and later because of the beautiful feathers.
  • Snowy egrets have different hunting strategies for catching prey. In particular, they may run around shallow waters and muddy them in order to catch fish or frogs.
  • Snowy egrets nest colonially in trees, often with other small herons or egrets.
  • The calls of the snowy egret are harsh and loud, entirely unexpected from such a graceful bird.
  • It is prohibited to destroy trees, dump waste, and build dams around wetland areas where the snowy egrets are known to feed and roost.

7. Turkey vulture

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia accipitriformes Cathartidae Cathartes Cathartes aura

Turkey VultureThe Turkey vulture is a relatively sizeable predatory bird of Missouri that has long wings.

  • The body of the turkey vulture is dark brown overall, except the grey flight feathers on the wingtips, as well as tail.
  • In the distance, their coloring seems to be black.
  • The head of the turkey vulture is bare and red.
  • The bill is relatively short, surrounded by the naked red skin, and has a slight curve.
  • A turkey vulture spreads its wings wide in flight and making a “V” shape.
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Bird WatchingTurkey vultures are common in Missouri and are seen increasingly more often not only in summer months but in winters as well – in Columbia, MO, for instance.

Source: “Turkey vultures becoming more at home during Missouri winters | News | columbiamissourian.com”. Accessed October 26, 2019. Link.

Interesting facts about turkey vultures:

  • Turkey vultures feed on dead carcasses and pose little threat to livestock.
  • Turkey vultures are forced to migrate in winter because they cannot eat frozen dead meat.
  • Turkey vultures may roost near roads because they can find roadkill there.
  • Turkey vultures are good at soaring flight and can cross vast distances in relatively short periods.
  • To keep fresh, turkey vultures pee on their own legs.

8. Snow goose

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Anser caerulescens

Snow GooseThe snow goose is one of the largest geese in the state of Missouri with two color morphs.

  • The white morph has only one patch of black among the white plumage – hidden black flight feathers.
  • The blue goose morph has a sooty gray plumage and a white head.
  • These birds have a typical anseriformes bill with a dark line on the underside, sometimes called “black lips“.
Where can you spot Snow Geese in Missouri?
Bird WatchingThis waterbird is quite common in Missouri, as it passes these territories during migration, especially in Northwest of the state, near Mound City.

Source: “Discover Nature: Snow Geese Populations Peak in Missouri’s Wetland Areas | KRCU”. Accessed October 26, 2019. Link.
  • It is currently allowed to hunt snow geese.

Interesting Facts about Snow Geese:

  • The white and blue morphs of the Snow goose were previously thought different species.
  • There are two subspecies of the Snow Goose: greater snow goose and lesser snow goose.
  • In 1916, the populations of snow geese were so low because of hunting that it was prohibited to kill them until 1975.
  • At present, the populations of Snow Geese and Ross Geese are so vast; they are endangering other species and overgrazing their feeding areas in the Arctic.
  • Snow geese are an essential food source for bald and golden eagles during winter.

9. Wood thrush

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Passeriformes Turdidae Hylocichla Hylocichla mustelina

Wood Thrush

The wood thrush is a bird from Missouri of medium size with a prominent “potbelly“.

  • It has a small yellow bill and short legs. This thrush has a typical “upright” posture.
  • The head of the wood thrush is relatively big compared to the body size.
  • This bird has camouflage coloring – the upper parts are reddish-brown, and both belly and chest are white, with prominent black spots.
  • There are noticeable white eye-rings around the big, round eyes.
Where can you spot wood thrushes in Missouri?
Bird WatchingRecently, wood thrushes were spotted in Howard, Missouri.

Source: “Wood Thrush – Media Search – eBird and Macaulay Library”. Accessed October 26, 2019. Link.

Interesting facts about wood thrushes:

  • A wood thrush is a very reclusive bird and can be usually heard, not seen.
  • A wood thrush is an “indicator species” – its population is the first to be affected in the area, for example, by the destruction of habitats.
  • An American poet and philosopher, Henry David Thoreau, has called the wood thrush’s song inspiring and exhilarating.
  • This species is crucial in the ecosystem: they eat many invertebrates, this controlling their populations, and both the birds themselves and their eggs are food for multiple predators.
  • Wood thrushes spend the winter in Central America, and they fly there at night, using Earth’s magnetic field and stars for orientation.

10. Greater Roadrunner

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Cuculiformes Cuculidae Geococcyx Geococcyx californianus

Greater Roadrunner

A greater roadrunner is a slender bird of Missouri with a long neck, long legs, and a typical crest on the head.

  • The greater roadrunner also has a very long tail.
  • The coloring of this bird is mostly brown with long stripes along the body.
  • The belly is lighter in color and usually without stripes.
  • During the breeding season, male roadrunners can get bright red and blue spots on the head.
Where can you spot greater roadrunners in Missouri?
Bird WatchingThis bird requires warmer temperatures, and in Missouri is seen mostly in Ozarks. It also can be spotted in Springfield.

Source: “10,000 Birds Suburban Roadrunners of Southern Missouri – 10,000 Birds”. Accessed October 26, 2019. Link.

Interesting facts about greater roadrunners:

  • If you think that the roadrunner seems familiar – you may have watched Warner Brother’s cartoons!
  • The roadrunner belongs to the cuckoo family and sometimes called the earth-cuckoo.
  • The roadrunner can sprint with speed up to 46 km per hour. This achievement is the highest speed for the birds that are capable of flight.
  • The roadrunners are so quick they can even catch hummingbirds.
  • Roadrunners get the moisture they need to survive in the desert from the blood of their prey.

11. Eastern kingbird

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Passeriformes Tyrannidae Tyrannus Tyrannus tyrannus

Eastern Kingbird

The eastern kingbird is a flycatcher of the genus Tyrannus. This Missouri bird is relatively small but with a large head.

  • The coloring is grey overall, while the head is almost black.
  • Another distinct feature of this species is a white tip on the tail.
  • The belly of the eastern kingbird is white.
Where can you spot eastern kingbirds in Missouri?
Bird WatchingEastern kingbirds migrate to Missouri in spring from Peru. In Missouri, the eastern kingbirds were spotted mainly in St. Louis City and Port Hudson Lake conservation area.

Source: “Eastern Kingbird” – eBird Hotspots Missouri. Accessed October 26, 2019. Link.

Interesting facts about eastern kingbirds:

  • Eastern kingbirds are visual hunters, catching flying insects in motion.
  • Eastern kingbirds prefer open spaces for breeding – from yards to lakes, parks, and grasslands.
  • In ancient times it was thought that this bird preyed on honeybees.
  • The eastern kingbirds are an important part of the ecosystem: in North America, they control the insect populations, while in South America, they also feed on berries and help disseminate seeds.
  • Eastern kingbirds can use different unique materials for nest-building, including human trash.

12. Snowy owl

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Strigiformes Strigidae Bubo Bubo scandiacus

Snowy Owl

The snowy owl is one of the largest birds in Missouri with bright yellow eyes. The plumage is usually white, sometimes with scattered brown spots.

  • Female and immature male owls may have dark barring on their white feathers.
  • The face is purely white in both sexes.
  • The head of this owl species is rounded, and there are no ear tufts.
  • Another typical feature of the snowy owl is the thick tufts of white feathers on the legs, probably for protection against cold.
Where can you spot snowy owls in Missouri?
Bird WatchingUsually, snowy owls are occasional visitors to the state of Missouri. In the winter of 2017-2018, there was an increase in the appearance of snowy owls in Missouri, as far south as the Golden City area.

Source: “Why so many Snowy Owls? – Missouri eBird”. Accessed October 26, 2019. Link.

Interesting facts about snowy owls:

  • As a rule, snowy owls reside in the Arctic, and Northern Canada and their main source of food are lemmings. If there are too many new young owls and few lemmings, the snowy owls migrate further south, including Missouri State.
  • The snowy owl does not build complicated nests: the eggs are laid into an indentation on the ground that looks like a small bowl.
  • The snowy owl has become famous after being featured as Harry Potter’s pet in the famous series of the same name.
  • Snowy owls are essential for the control of small mammals‘ populations.
  • There is a theory that both lemming and snowy owl populations are in decline due to climate change.

13. Orchard oriole

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Passeriformes Icteridae Icterus Icterus spurius
Ochard Oriole
Ochard Oriole (Source: Wikimedia)

The orchard oriole is the smallest orioles in North America. This bird looks slim, with a long, pointed tail.

  • It also has the darkest coloring among orioles: the back and head of the male orchard oriole are dark black, while the belly and chest are chestnut brown.
  • There is also a chestnut-colored patch on the wings of this oriole.
  • The female orchard oriole is yellow-green, with darker-colored wings that have two white bars.
  • Immature males resemble females in color and have a black throat.
  • Both sexes have a typical sharply pointed bill.
  • Orchard oriole is common statewide.
Where can you spot orchard orioles in Missouri?
Bird Watching These Missouri birds are hiding atop high trees, so it is easier to hear them, not see them. The most recent sightings were reported in Clay County.

Source: “Walter Farm Clay County Missouri” – eBird. Accessed October 26, 2019. Link.

Interesting facts about orchard orioles:

  • Orchard oriole has co-evolved with a plant called coral bean tree and assists with its pollination.
  • Orchard orioles migrate north in search of insects that they feed their young.
  • They can be fed orange slices or jelly from the unique feeders people install for orioles.
  • Orchard orioles like to nest near the water, and sometimes several birds would make nests on the same tree.
  • Orchard orioles have a very short breeding season: they move north in late spring and return South in mid-July.

14. Common yellowthroat

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Passeriformes Parulidae Geothlypis Geothlypis trichas

Common Yellowthroat

The next Missouri bird is the common yellowthroat, and it is also a songbird. This bird is small, has a round belly and a long tail.

  • Male yellowthroats have overall olive-green plumage with a yellow throat.
  • The head mask is offset from the back by a distinct white stripe.
  • The area around the bill and eyes is black.
  • Females of the species are olive-brown with a yellow throat.
  • Common yellowthroats are wetland birds.
Where can you spot common yellowthroats in Missouri?
Bird WatchingThe common yellowthroats are widely distributed in Missouri. You can spot common yellowthroats at the Audubon Trails Nature Centre.

Source: “”. Accessed October 26, 2019. Link.

Interesting facts about common yellowthroats:

  • The common yellowthroat is among the first species from the New World described by Linnaeus.
  • Common yellowthroats can eat up to thousand of mosquitoes a day.
  • Sometimes yellowthroats are found in bellies of carnivorous fish like pike and bass.
  • One can attract migrating yellowthroats by putting out some dried insects in the backyard.
  • Yellowthroats can detect when a parasitic cowbird lays an egg into their nests, and abandon the infected nest (or build a new nest above the old one).

15. Black-chinned hummingbird

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Apodiformes Trochilidae Archilochus Archilochus alexandri

Black-chinned Hummingbirds

The last but not the least bird of Missouri in our list is a beautiful hummingbird with a long and slender body.

  • This hummingbird has metallic green upperparts and the belly with a mix of gray and white feathers.
  • The bill of the black-chinned hummingbird is thin, straight, and long.
  • The throat and chin of the male black-chinned hummingbird have iridescent velvet black feathers.
  • There is a purple band below this black patch.
  • The female black-chinned hummingbirds have metallic green back, head, and wings.
  • The tail of the female hummingbirds of this species has three broad feathers with white tips.
  • The belly and throat are whitish.
  • This hummingbird is migratory and is an occasional vagrant in Missouri.
  • It can be attracted to hummingbird feeders in the backyard during the hummingbird migration season.
Suggested Reading: What do hummingbirds eat?
Where can you spot black-chinned hummingbirds in Missouri?
Bird WatchingUsually, the black-chinned hummingbirds breed in mountain areas in the western United States, at lower elevations. Unfortunately, no sightings of this species were reported in Missouri this year.

Source: “Hummingbird Migration Map 2019 / 2020 Sightings & Patterns”. Accessed October 26, 2019. Link.

Interesting facts about black-chinned hummingbirds:

  • This hummingbird is highly adaptable and can be seen in a variety of habitats from semi-deserts to urban parks with high trees.
  • The most favorite flowers of black-chinned hummingbirds are Tree Tobacco, Scarlet Larkspur, and Desert Ocotillo.
  • Black-throated hummingbirds are highly territorial and chase away both birds and bees alike.
  • Males of this species are polygamous and mate with multiple females. They do not participate in nest building or caring for the young.
  • The nest of the black-chinned hummingbird is made of spider nets and plant down and can expand as the chicks grow.

Many Missouri birds require citizen support, such as nest boxes and feeders. Even if the birds themselves do not need direct help such as food and housing, simple rules such as responsible hunting and waste disposal can go a long way to protect many of Missouri’s feathered residents.

Cite this article as: "Top 15 BEST Birds of Missouri," in Bio Explorer by Jack Kirsten, October 27, 2019, https://www.bioexplorer.net/birds-of-missouri.html/.

Key References

  • “Eastern Bluebird – Everything Birds”. Accessed October 26, 2019. Link.
  • “Painted Bunting | MDC Discover Nature”. Accessed October 26, 2019. Link.
  • “Cedar Waxwing | National Wildlife Federation”. Accessed October 26, 2019. Link.
  • “Red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)”. Accessed October 26, 2019. Link.
  • “Discover Nature: American Goldfinches | KRCU”. Accessed October 26, 2019. Link.
  • “Snowy Egret | Chesapeake Bay Program”. Accessed October 26, 2019. Link.
  • “Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) in Explore Raptors: Facts, habitat, diet | The Peregrine Fund”. Accessed October 26, 2019. Link.
  • “Snow Goose”. Accessed October 26, 2019. Link.
  • “ADW: Hylocichla mustelina: INFORMATION”. Accessed October 26, 2019. Link.
  • “Roadrunner – Bird – Geococcyx californianus – DesertUSA”. Accessed October 26, 2019. Link.
  • “Eastern Kingbird | MDC Discover Nature”. Accessed October 26, 2019. Link.
  • “Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) – Information, Pictures, Sounds – The Owl Pages”. Accessed October 26, 2019. Link.
  • “Why Is the Snowy Owl Disappearing? | Science | Smithsonian”. Accessed October 26, 2019. Link.
  • “Baltimore Oriole » Bird Watcher’s Digest”. Accessed October 26, 2019. Link.
  • “VLAWMO :: Faces of Wetlands: Common Yellowthroat”. Accessed October 26, 2019. Link.
  • “Missouri – Hummingbird Feeders”. Accessed October 26, 2019. Link.

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