In Missouri, winter is for the birds. Literally.
As January begins, bird watching opportunities abound across the state, indoors and out. And what better way to celebrate National Bird Day on January 5 than taking in the avian sights around the Show-Me State?
Start by letting your spirit take wing at World Bird Sanctuary in Eureka, where you can meet the fastest animal on the planet: the Peregrine Falcon. Peregrines can reach nearly 200 miles per hour when power-diving for prey, which surpasses the speed of the fastest land animal, the Cheetah, at 75 miles per hour. Solo was rescued (in the egg) from a nest in Clayton when the female falcon died and hatched in 2014. Due to a pair of birth defects that kept him from being able to be released back into the wild, Solo has remained at the sanctuary as an education bird, giving you a chance to meet this amazing creature up close.
If the weather is bitter, explore the WBS nature center and enjoy Thick-billed Parrots, the only parrot native to the U.S. The nature center is also home to Shuttle the Russian Tortoise, Kahn the 12-foot Albino Burmese Python and a pair of Straw-colored Fruit Bats named Batty and Scar. If the weather is mild, venture out to their viewing deck/weathering area for see the largest species of owl in the world: a Eurasian Eagle Owl. You may even get to hear a White Necked Raven mimic human speech.
Guided tours of the sanctuary are available and owl prowls (with a naturalist who tries to call in wild owls) are offered on select evenings November-March.
Also in St. Louis, the Taylor Family Puffin Bay at the Saint Louis Zoo is home to horned and tufted puffins, also known as sea parrots or clowns of the sea. They're a sure cure for wintertime blues. Four different species of penguins live next door. And there's one of the zoo's newer resident who loves January weather: Kali, the polar bear.
Across the state in Kansas City, Helzerg Penguin Plaza at the Kansas City Zoo is a must-see for any kid or any kid-at-heart. Get up close to watch their antics in their 100,000-gallon cool pool (for cold water penguins) and 25,000-gallon habitat for their warm-water cousins.
For the hardier souls, Missouri winters can't be beat for a chance to observe America's national symbol: the Bald Eagle. January is prime time for these big raptors, which come here in droves each winter to find open water; they really love our big rivers. The Show-Me State celebrates their visit every year with Eagle Days in every corner of the state.