by Eric and Joanna Reuter
The opportunity to observe millions of blackbirds in a single roosting site is back!
In January 2020, Joanna and I first reported a massive concentration of blackbirds using a winter roost site in northern Boone County. Many viewers were drawn to the site by the fascinating spectacle of millions of birds flooding into a single field as evening fell, with cacophonous chattering and mass wingbeats pulsating like a wave-beaten beach adding to the experience. The roost disbanded by spring, but was re-established in winter 2020-2021, then again in late 2021. However, in early 2022 we revisited the site to find it all but abandoned, and concluded that the birds had changed behavior.
However, a new visit on November 26, 2022 revealed that reports of the roost’s demise were greatly exaggerated…or at least a little premature: it’s currently back at full strength. We observed easily as many birds as past years’ peaks, collectively agreed upon as around 2 million, and the spectacle was just as grand as ever (eBird list).
This roost is worth seeing, and based on last year, the continuity of activity through the winter is not fully predictable. We intend to visit and monitor about once a month, and hope others will add some eBird data points as well. Please be aware that human cases of histoplasmosis have been associated with other blackbird roosts with a multi-year presence; we have no way to assess the actual risk.
As newly approved CAS field trip coordinators, we’d like to arrange a field trip to this destination, but it will be weather-dependent and thus somewhat last-minute. Please keep an eye on your email and the CAS site so you’ll know if/when we post a trip. In the meantime, here’s some info if you want to go on your own.
Tips for visiting:
—The roost site is on private land, but conveniently a public road (Dunbar Lane) dead ends at a perfect viewing spot. Please respect private property and stay on the gravel road.
—Arrive about half an hour before sunset and expect to stay for ~45 minutes to an hour.
—Note that Google shows the name of the road as “Dun Bar” even though it is actually “Dunbar”. Here’s a Google maps link to the observation location:
— This location is an official eBird hotspot (Dunbar Ln. Blackbird Roost Stakeout – Winter 2019, 2020, and 2021), so please use that for any reporting.
— Our peer-reviewed article summarizing roost observations appeared in the September 2020 issue of The Bluebird (journal of the Missouri Birding Society)
— We also published a February 3, 2022 video on our YouTube channel, @OzarkOutsider, compiling footage of roost activity from multiple visits
— Joanna wrote an article in the January 2020 Chat about large blackbird flocks, the research for which helped us locate the roost