by Stephen Bybee, Missouri Conservation Corps

Missouri Conservation Corps would like to thank the members of the Columbia Audubon Society for helping to coordinate and lead an educational bird hike in Columbia’s Kiwanis Park this spring. In May 2023, CAS president Lori Turner and members Eric and Joanna Reuter, Jim Gast, and John Besser organized and facilitated a bird hike and bird count in this central Columbia Park. More than 15 local and visiting birders and bird watchers came out on an early spring morning to hike through the park’s 20 acres while listening for, watching for, and identifying the many different birds that make a springtime home in the park.

At 8 a.m. on a cool, bright morning in May, vehicles began to pull into the parking lot of the Talbert Thurston shelter in Kiwanis Park. Singly and in pairs, occupants emerged from their cars to coalesce in a semicircle around Columbia Audubon Society member and hike leader John Besser. Besser spoke to the group for several minutes while participants gathered their gear, adjusted their backpacks, and brandished walking sticks. As the group left the parking lot and entered the forested environment of the park, necks tilted, and heads stretched out to look above and admire the lofty canopy of hardwoods stretching over their heads. Several participants in the hike brought binoculars and spotting scopes to help them catch sight of the feathered denizens of Kiwanis Park’s heavily forested landscape, and these devices were eagerly shared by other hikers out for their first official urban bird hike.

As the group of birding enthusiasts meandered up and down the park’s hills and valleys, crossing bridges and marveling at magnificently lofty trees, they identified more than 36 species of birds present in the park that morning, including the Swanson’s Thrush, downy woodpecker, pileated woodpecker, yellow throated vireo, blue-headed vireo, white breasted nuthatch, eastern bluebird, Carolina wren, Baltimore oriole, brown headed cowbird, magnolia warbler, Wilson’s warbler, scarlet tanager, the Acadian flycatcher, and the elusive, ground-nesting oven bird. A full list of our finds that morning is available on e-bird, or by request from the Columbia Audubon Society.

Since 2021 Missouri Conservation Corps has been working to remove invasive honeysuckle from Kiwanis Park. We have organized more than 30 volunteer workdays to help improve the landscape and ecosystem of this forested gem in central Columbia. We have successfully cleared over twelve of the park’s 20 acres to date, and we have discovered that as the honeysuckle is removed, the native plants in the park are coming back and thriving.

Our hope is that the removal of invasive honeysuckle will also benefit the birds and the other fauna who call this park home. The guided bird hike on May 10th was our first in a series of efforts designed to study and measure the impact of honeysuckle removal on the park’s bird population. It is our group’s hope to establish an annual or semi-annual bird county in Kiwanis Park, in order to monitor the relationship between habitat improvement and bird population and diversity.

Thank you again, Columbia Audubon Society, and all the members and associated birders who came out to join us on an inspiring and educational morning bird hike in Kiwanis Park. We also wish to thank the incredibly talented local photographer Rebecca Allen for coming out to document the bird hike and its participants!

Missouri Conservation Corps holds volunteer workdays and native plantings in Kiwanis Park throughout the year and has started an educational series in the park. All events are free and open to the public. More information can be found at our Facebook page, Missouri Conservation Corps, or by emailing us at If there are any Columbia Audubon Society members interested in helping establish an ongoing bird count in Kiwanis Park, please contact Stephen Bybee at