A roadrunner walks in a field on a warm summer day in southeast Texas County. Audubon Society members are surprised to see the birds showing up in the Springfield area, and blame climate change. The Missouri Department of Conservation calls them highly adaptable birds and says they've been in the state for decades (first being recorded in the mid-1950s).

Members of an Audubon Society chapter in southwest Missouri say they’re commonly seeing birds that used to be rare in the Ozarks, and they believe climate change is the reason.

“We believe we are seeing real changes in our area,” Charles Burwick, a veteran member of the Greater Ozarks Audubon Society chapter and a Missouri master naturalist, told the Springfield News-Leader. “We’re seeing Eastern phoebes nesting here where 15 years ago they were rare. And there’s been a big change in Springfield, where we are seeing black vultures at the Nature Center and the quarry. It used to be that black vultures stayed farther south, like in the Table Rock area. Now we see them regularly with the turkey vultures that have always been here.”

House finches, typically found west of the Rockies, are becoming common. Even roadrunners, a desert bird, are making homes in a Springfield neighborhood.

“That neighborhood is pretty proud of its roadrunners,” Burwick said. “They nest in shrubbery next to people’s homes. The kind of startling thing about that is what do they live on during the winter?”

Burwick said many birds are experiencing significant declines, mostly due to decline in wildlife habitat.

“Grassland birds have been specifically hit as a result of expanding transfer of habitat to agriculture, and the widespread use of fescue for pasture graze for cattle and other livestock,” he said.

The Greater Ozarks Audubon Society is in the midst of its annual Christmastime bird count, a process that began Dec. 14 and continues through Jan. 5. Each bird-counting team covers an area of a 15-mile-diameter circle in which volunteers fan out to count and record every bird they see in 24 hours. There are more than a dozen similar bird-count circle locations across Missouri and hundreds across the United States.

Dedicated birders even go outside at night to find and count owls and other night fliers.

The data will become part of a database for the national Audubon Society in Washington, D.C.

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