As a conservation organization, the National Audubon Society and the Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center strive to help improve the population status of native bird species that are in decline, and to help prevent them from eventually becoming threatened, endangered, or possibly even extinct or extirpated from our area.
Using the best available scientific data for population estimates and trends, our staff have identified three target species that are declining throughout much of their range and that we believe we can help through some conservation actions taken on park property and beyond by enlisting the support of Center volunteers and the public at large.
Prothonotary Warbler (PROW)
The world population of Prothonotary Warblers is estimated at 1.6 million and declining at average rate of 1% annually, but higher in some regions. It has been placed on Audubon's WatchList 2007, list of Birds of Conservation Concern, and endangered species list for Canada.
The Prothonotary Warbler nests in bottomland forests and riparian corridors along streams and rivers. During the winter months they utilize wet forests and mangrove swamps in Central and South America. They are threatened by a loss of habitat, water quality issues such as pollution, and changes in hydrology, building and window collisions, Brown-headed Cowbird parasitism, and climate change.
At Wildcat Glades, 24 nest boxes were installed along Shoal and Silver Creeks in Wildcat Park and monitored. Since 2013, there has been 44 young successfully fledged.
Wildcat Glades is participating in an international research project to learn more about the Prothonotary Warbler. Nesting birds and their young are captured and color banded for observation, blood and feather samples are taken for DNA analysis, and in 2016 we plan to put geo-locators on some of the birds to track their movements.
Red-headed Woodpecker (RHWO)
The Red-headed Woodpecker was included on the Audubon WatchList (2007) due to drastic declines in much of their range, from 40-80% over the last 40 years. In our area, they were once one of the most common woodpeckers seen, but are now one of the least common.
Red-headed woodpeckers live in savannas and open woodlands with little understory and plenty of large dead trees or snags. Removal of these snags and a lack of fire which maintains open woodland/savanna habitats threatens their populations. Invasive plants such as honeysuckle may also negatively impact their habitat.
Wildcat Glades has initiated a campaign called "Save That Snag" which involved creating a PSA (public service announcement) in conjunction with Joplin School District.
We also have a scavenger hunt activity in Wildcat Park called “Where’s Droot”, a parody on the Where’s Waldo books using a tree-like alien character called Groot from the popular 2014 movie, Guardians of the Galaxy. Visitors look for four snags in the park, each with a different clay face placed on them, and take pictures to qualify for a drawing for a prize, which is a Red-headed Woodpecker plush toy.
Chimney Swift (CHSW)
Chimney Swifts are have declined over 50% over the last 40 years in its range, and listed by Audubon as a Vulnerable Common Bird. In North America during the summer, Chimney Swifts use open habitats in urban and suburban areas where there are chimneys for nesting and roosting sites. They spend the winter months in the Amazon basin in South America.
Many chimneys are no longer used which has threatened Chimney Swift populations. Capping of chimneys still in use restricts access during the summer nesting season. Historically, swifts nested in large, hollow trees, but have adapted to using our chimneys almost exclusively, hence their name.
As part of a Missouri Master Naturalist project, a swift tower and interpretive sign was placed in front of the Audubon Center. In the summer of 2014 our first pair of swifts nested in the tower, but it was unknown how many young were fledged. In 2015, another nest was built and five young successfully fledged in July. A small camera has been installed in the tower, which can be observed by visitors on a tv screen in the exhibit hall of the Center. In May 2015, we helped the Royal Heights Elementary School in Joplin install a swift tower on their school grounds. We continue to seek out partnerships and grants that will allow more schools and other organizations to build their own swift towers.