The Important Bird Areas program encompasses important habitats occupied by bird species and communities of conservation concern. Most conservation issues involve the degradation, loss, and fragmentation of habitat, and conservation in Missouri presents no exception. Birds often require specific habitats, many of which contain natural resources of economic value to humans. Bird numbers are typically proportional to the amount of their available habitat, and if Missouri loses these habitats, or suitable alternatives, birds can become extirpated from the state. Additionally, habitat quality and size often have ramifications for the occurrence and demographic characteristics of birds.
Barton, Dade, Jasper, and Lawrence Counties
The Golden Grasslands IBA is spatially the largest IBA in Missouri that is slated for grassland bird conservation. Most of the IBA, which lies on the border of the Ozark Highlands and Osage Plains Ecological Sections, historically was dominated by tallgrass prairie, with some oak savanna and woodland (Nigh and Schroeder 2002). Now the IBA is dominated by a matrix of fescue pastures and hay meadows, and cropland, with some dense stands of timber. Embedded in this matrix, however, are several tallgrass prairie remnants.
In addition to the occurrence of remnant Greater Prairie-Chicken populations, grassland birds that use the tallgrass prairie within this IBA include Short-eared Owl, Upland Sandpiper, Northern Harrier, Bell’s Vireo, Grasshopper Sparrow, Henslow’s Sparrow, Dickcissel, and Eastern Meadowlark.
Western Cherokee Prairies
The Western Cherokee Prairies IBA was historically dominated by tallgrass prairie. Today, prairie remnants remain amidst much fescue pasture and hay meadows, and cropland. Prairie State Park contains the largest native tallgrass prairie remnant in the state.
Greater Prairie-Chickens still occur in this IBA, where relatively large prairie remnants required by this species remain. Other grassland birds that use the tallgrass prairie within this IBA include: Bell’s Vireo, Dickcissel, Grasshopper Sparrow, Henslow’s Sparrow, Northern Harrier, Sedge Wren, Short-eared Owl, and Upland Sandpiper.
Shell Knob Glades and Woodlands
Barry and Stone Counties
The historic vegetation of the rugged Shell Knob Glades and Woodlands IBA was composed of woodland-glade complexes on ridges and forested valleys. Many of the glades and woodlands have become overgrown with cedar in the absence of fire. Much lowland forest has been inundated by Table Rock Lake.
Bachman’s Sparrows occur in glades of the Shell Knob Glades and Woodlands. Other glade and savanna-dwelling birds include Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Prairie Warbler, and Painted Bunting. Cerulean Warblers have been observed during their breeding season in the southern portion of the Mark Twain National Forest and other points in the IBA. Many migrant and breeding forest birds, including Prothonotary Warbler, may be seen throughout the IBA as well.