The Central Missouri Hills IBA occupies an area well-dissected by streams and karst topography (Nigh and Schroeder 2002). Savanna and woodland historically covered flatter uplands, whereas hilly breaks and stream valleys were historically covered in oak and mixed-hardwood / bottomland forest. Today, much of the forest is fragmented and in second-growth, and the much of the uplands and bottomlands have been converted to fescue pasture and cropland.
Nineteen percent of the IBA is dedicated conservation land, including most of the Mark Twain National Forest Cedar Creek District (US Forest Service [USFS]) (9,796 acres, 3,966 ha), the University of Missouri-Columbia's (MU) Baskett Wildlife Research Area (2,280 acres, 923 ha), the Missouri Department of Natural resources (MDNR) Rock Bridge State Park (SP) (2,273 acres, 920 ha), and the Missouri Department of Conservation's (MDC) Three Creeks Conservation Area (CA) (1,507 acres, 610 ha) and Hart Creek CA (657 acres, 266 ha). The Katy Trail (MDNR) runs along the southern border of the IBA (also along the White Cliffs Floodplain IBA), and while not providing much conservation land, it presents an excellent opportunity to observe riparian and upland birds.

Ornithological Summary

The IBA presents wooded and shrubland habitats for migratory and breeding upland birds amidst a rapidly suburbanizing landscape. Several forest fragments remain, with some embedded grassland fragments. Many of these fragments are small and represent sub-optimal breeding habitat for some forest and grassland birds (Donovan 1995a, Robinson et al. 1995, Porneluzi and Faaborg 1999, Herkert et al. 2003). However, much opportunity exists for people in central Missouri to observe several of Missouri?s forest birds, and habitat there supports an exceptional diversity and numbers of migrating songbirds. Surprisingly high concentrations of Northern Bobwhite, and some Henslow?s Sparrows, have been found within grasslands in this IBA.

Conservation Issues

The Central Missouri Hills IBA overlaps MDC?s Bonne Femme Karst Conservation Opportunity Area (MDC 2005), where the urbanization of the Columbia and Ashland areas is a perceived threat to habitats and habitat management alternatives (likely prescribed fire). Conservation of avian habitats in the region will also protect areas of non-avian, cave-dwelling species. Opportunity exists for forest, woodland, savanna, and prairie restoration at Mark Twain National Forest Cedar Creek District, and the USFS is considering prescribed burn alternatives (USFS 2004). Much wildlife research?including ornithological?is conducted at MU?s Baskett Wildlife Research Area.

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