Pine Branches Silhouette

Birds & Bats of the Ozarks

by Joshua Heston

The keening call of a red tailed hawk, the persistent rhythm of a woodpecker high up on a now-dead oak, the skittering noises of bats deep within an Ozarks cavern — these sounds are not exclusive to the Ozark mountains but there is a special resonating natural beauty in the flying critters of our North American world.

The Ozarks are a flyover in more ways than one! You never know what species you may encounter in a trek over the wildness of the mountains — or in simply stepping out into the backyard. Bluebirds grace open meadows and meadowlarks call yelp so loudly on a midsummer evening you can hear them through car windows whilst speeding down a country lane.

Wintertime eagles gracefully soar over Arkansas waterways — and not-so gracefully waddle about over ice covered ponds — in search of food. Nighthawks cartwheel through an insect-laden night and owls call at dusk. Did you know Elizabethan lore named the hoot of an owl as an omen of death? There is still something eerie about that call, whether the cry is that of a great barred owl or of the tiny, banshee-sounding screech owl.

A number of bat species populate mountain caverns, including the little brown bat and the Ozark big-eared bat (now listed as endangered).

And for any hiker or hunter who has had a wild turkey explode from nearly underfoot, you know the birds of the Ozarks can even nearly induce a heart attack! All these flying critters of the hills bring color, beauty an exceptional riches to our hills’ natural heritage.

wild turkey

Wild Turkey Meleagris gallopavo

Plate 1. Yellow Pine silhouettes a deep blue Ozarks dusk on Compton Ridge. May 3, 2008.

Northern Saw-Whet Owl

Plate 2. Northern saw-whet owl. January 3, 2008.

Some Ozark Birds:

Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis

Screech Owl Otus asio

Wild Turkey Meleagris gallopavo

Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos

Whip-poor-will Caprimulgus vociferus

Little Brown Bat Myotis lucifigus

Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)

Length: 3-4 feet. What to look for: very large size; tail long, with black band near tip; male glossy brown, with bare, pale bluish head and red wattles; female smaller, duller. Habitat: oak and mesquite brush, deciduous woodlands, wooded bottomlands.

— page 111, Wernett, Susan J., et al. North American Wildlife. The Reader's Digest Association, Inc., 1986.

chinkapin oak

Natural Heritage

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Josh@StateoftheOzarks.net

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