Birders from around the Midwest will gather at Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center for the Second Annual BirdFest this weekend.

Birders from around the Midwest will gather at Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center for the Second Annual BirdFest this weekend.

Executive Director Robin McAlester said the program has attracted people from as far as Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana and Kansas.

“We have folks from Independence to Indianapolis, Ind.,” McAlester said. “We’ve got folks coming from all around to attend the bird festival.”

She says it does not matter if individuals are a novice birder or an expert there is something for everyone including hikes to a variety of bird habitats, seminar sessions and displays and an outdoor art exhibit.

The art show itself will run from noon to 7 p.m. April 24. A special children’s art exhibit will be open April 24 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. A registration fee of $5 is required for most other programs or a $25 registration fee for a weekend pass.

Wildcat Glades is an Audubon center and McAlester said birds can function as barometer, measuring the environmental fluctuations around us.

“We look to that as a warning sign and try to figure out what we can do to protect them and that in turn helps protect the environment for us,” she said.

She compares it to the historic use of canaries in coal mines.

“When the bird stopped singing then they knew that there was trouble,” she said. 

Spring means a greater variety of birds in the area. Missouri has 400 documented bird species, but migratory patterns and nesting sites temporarily increase the local bird population.

“Many of them may nest here in the spring and summer,” she said. “But some will just be migrating through to their nesting grounds up north, so by having the bird festival during the migration time you get a chance to see species that you normally don’t.”

“The really cool thing about going on birding trips like that is you see birds that you may not be familiar with — probably most of us are familiar with the cardinals or the chickadees out on our feeders, but these birds are migrating through,” McAlester said.

The birds, McAlester said, can be kind of elusive.

“We may be unfamiliar with those, but by going on a trip with a leader, a guide who can identify them and spot them and point them out it really give you an opportunity to expand whether it’s a bird life-list that you keep or just awareness of what other bird species are out there and fly through.”

Guides are trained to recognize the birds by their individual calls and know where to spot the birds by their knowledge of the habits of each species, whether they will be in the treetop, on the ground or flitting from branch to branch.

This year’s theme for the event explores the influence of birds on the Native American culture. McAlester is especially excited about the Saturday evening Native American flute concert by John Two-Hawks.

“It’s quite special that he is coming to the center to do this program. He has sold out concerts across the country,” she said. “It will be beautiful.”

Seating for sessions, chartered bus trips to bird hot spots and the concert is limited. They are still taking late registrations, but McAlester asked that any community members who plan to come register as soon as possible.


Full registration for all programs is $25. Individual registrations are $5 per session. To register for a session call the Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center at (417) 782-NATR.

The speaker for the 7 p.m. Friday evening session will be Christopher Cokinos, author of “Hope Is the Thing with Feathers: A Personal Chronicle of Vanished Birds,” followed by a live raptor program at 8 p.m. with Rusty Scarborough.

Four locations for the birding trip will leave from the center in the early morning hours.
The Roaring River trip will explore the raparian corridor looking for songbirds in glade and forest habitats. The Golden Prairie trip will look for a variety of sparrows and possibly some prairie chickens. A Schell-Osage Conservation Area trip spans both grassland and wetland habitats. Other trips will visit local hot spots.

Saturday, April 25

All Day — Art exhibits

A children’s art exhibit will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. An outdoor wildlife art expo will run from noon to 7 p.m.

1 p.m. - 2 p.m. — Live birds of prey                           

Rusty Scarborough will present a live raptor program featuring: the American kestrel (falcon), peregrine falcon, red-tailed hawk, Harris’s hawk, and golden eagle.

2 p.m. - 3 p.m. — Native American storytelling          

Calvin Cassady will retell traditional Native Americans stories.

3 p.m. - 4 p.m. — Native American textile artist         

Margaret Wheeler, Native American textile artist, will display woven garments made in natural fibers and American Indian clothing adapted for contemporary wear.

4 p.m. - 5 p.m. — Missouri’s tropical connection            

Brad Jacobs, Missouri Department of Conservation will discuss migrant birds, the challenges they face and the efforts of the Avian Conservation Alliance of the Americas.

5:30 p.m. - 6 p.m. — “Birds In Culture” video presentation    

This video will show how birds have influenced Native American culture.

6 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. — Clay work and storytelling              

Local artist Charles Stephens (Tall Bear) will share Native American stories while creating Cherokee coil clay pottery. 

7:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. — John Two-Hawks flute concert          

He has taken Native American flute music from the powwow and folk festival to Emmy Award winning movies. Hear John Two-Hawks in concert at the Wildcat Glades center.

For more information about the Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center or to register for programs, please call (417) 782-NATR or log on to our website at