Bird calls can be iconic, and to many Missourians, some have come to define landscapes.
Bird calls can be iconic, and to many Missourians, some have come to define landscapes. Waking up to the complex song of an eastern meadowlark in grassy fields at dawn, the gentle “coo” of mourning doves throughout the day, and rocking on the front porch to the playful song of the whip-poor-will on a warm summer’s night. However, one iconic call has not been heard in Missouri’s landscapes for some time: the “rubber ducky squeak” of the brown-headed nuthatch.
The nuthatch was extirpated, or made locally extinct, in Missouri nearly a century ago due to the loss of its habitat. Millions of acres of shortleaf pine and oak woodland once covered Missouri’s Ozarks, but due to widespread logging and fire suppression, most of this ecosystem was removed by the early 1900s, eventually forcing the nuthatch out of the state.
However, some of those pine woodlands have now been intentionally restored to the Ozarks landscape by conservation partners in the region, such as the U.S. Forest Service’s Mark Twain National Forest. Tree harvesting has now become a tool for restoration and fire has returned to the land to maintain this ecosystem. With the habitat returned to its former state, University of Missouri researchers — working together with the forest service’s Northern Research Station and Mark Twain and Ouachita National Forests, along with the Missouri Department of Conservation — are releasing nuthatches back into Missouri.
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Image via University of Missouri.
Noppadol Paohtong/Missouri Department of Conservation.