Whenever I’m in St. Louis, I try to spend some time at Forest Park, one of the largest urban parks in the United States. At about 1,300 acres, it is significantly larger than New York’s Central Park. Forest Park is home to museums, restaurants, a zoo, and other landmarks that attract about 12 million visitors a year.
For birds, the park is an oasis in a vast urban area. At the park’s southwestern corner lies the John F. Kennedy Memorial Forest, a great spot to look for birds, especially migrants in spring and fall. Spend a morning in the forest in late April or early May or again in September, and your checklist is sure to have many warblers, thrushes, vireos, cuckoos, and more. Throughout the park, birders have recorded more than 220 species over the years; at least 150 of them have been spotted in the Kennedy Forest.
Another good spot is the Fish Hatchery, which has trails around five ponds that attract waterbirds, kingfishers, and other species. Southeast of the hatchery, the nearly 9-acre Klein Prairie features restored prairies that attract Purple Martins and monarch butterflies and other pollinators. Wildlife Island in the middle of the park is also worth checking out; you can rent a paddleboat from the boathouse to get up close to the island and its residents.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Forests, lakes, ponds, grasslands.
Varies. Many walking paths and boardwalks.
More than 220 species. Wood Duck, Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, Blue- and Green-winged Teal, Hooded Merganser, Chimney Swift, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Killdeer, American Woodcock, sandpipers, herons, egrets, Mississippi Kite, Bald Eagle, hawks, Great Horned and Barred Owls, woodpeckers, flycatchers, vireos, chickadees, Tufted Titmouse, swallows, Eurasian Tree Sparrow (unusual), 35 warbler species, Summer and Scarlet Tanagers, Indigo Bunting.
When to go
Bird walks held first Saturday of the month (except for July), 8-10:30 a.m. Details and park checklist at forestparkforever.org/birding-programs. Several parking lots, restrooms, picnic areas, and water fountains; seven restaurants and cafes.
City park. Open daily 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Accessible from 10 entrances. To reach Kennedy Memorial Forest, take Wells Street to Government Drive. Park on street or in nearby lot.
Park is busy, especially on weekends. Best to bird early in the week and early in the morning. Lock vehicle and store valuables in trunk.
For more info
Forest Park Forever
Great Missouri Birding Trail