"We live along one of the greatest migratory flyways on earth, and I don't think that our region pays a lot of attention to that," said Patricia Hagen, executive director of the new Audubon Center at Riverlands. "We are located near the confluence of two of our country's greatest rivers, the Missouri and the Mississippi. Birds use these rivers to migrate. It's sort of their migratory highway, and we call it a flyway. The Mississippi Flyway is one of the most important migratory flyways on Earth. The number of birds that you can see here is phenomenal."
More than 325 species of birds have been sighted along the flyway, Hagen said. That's 60 percent of all North American birds. Fall and spring are the high seasons for bird migration, but families can see birds year-round, she said.
"There are so many big birds here that are easy to see for kids," said Mindy Cory, park ranger for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St. Louis District. Kids are often excited to see eagles, pelicans, swans, ducks and other larger bird species.
The new facility offers indoor and outdoor viewing areas, hanging silhouettes of some of the flyway's frequent avian visitors and educational exhibits that detail the flyway and how the Army Corps of Engineers adjusts water flow to accommodate birds as they migrate. The center will also offer programming and special events for kids.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the Audubon Center with funding from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. The center cost nearly $3 million to build.
Grand Opening Event
Families are invited to explore the Audubon Center during its grand opening celebration from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 15. Activities include guided trail walks, kids' crafts and informational booths.
The Aududon Center is within the Corps' Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary, with its 3,700 acres of prairie marsh and forest. In addition to birding, the sanctuary offers biking and hiking trails and access to the Mississippi River.
The Audubon Center is located at 301 Riverlands Way, West Alton, Mo., 63386. Visit the center's website for more information.
Pictured: The deck at the Audubon Center offers views of Ellis Bay, the Clark Bridge and, of course, birds. An outdoor classroom provides space for educational gatherings at the Audubon Center.