Lakeside Nature Center

A 2015 KCP&L Microgrant is helping Lakeside Nature Center return injured birds to the wild more quickly.

Lakeside Owl PhotoDo you know where to take an injured wild bird or animal? Lakeside Nature Center.

Lakeside is the largest facility of its kind in Missouri. “We rehab sick and injured wild animals that are native to Missouri,” said Kimberly Hess, director of the center. “And then we return them to the wild.”

But Lakeside had a problem. 

Waterfowl that are out of the water too long lose the protective oil coating on their feathers and can no longer survive in the wild. Lakeside’s small water pools helped, but the birds were still unable to preen properly.  

Lakeside needed to add pools, drainage systems and native plants and trees to their wild raptor and waterfowl flight pens. They’re making these changes with the help of a 2015 KCP&L Microgrant.

“The water birds need to swim as soon as possible,” Hess explained. “And the raptors, like bald eagles, owls and hawks, need to hunt while recovering—to survive in the wild.”

Deeper pools will allow the birds to swim, exercise and preen naturally, reducing their rehab time by up to 40%. And that’s important because the faster a bird is released, the better its chance of survival.

In addition, many young raptors arrive severely malnourished and unable to hunt on their own. If a Hawk can’t hunt, it can’t be released.  So the young birds require a natural hunting area to learn how to hunt properly. The old pools when drained—along with additional foliage—will simulate a more natural hunting environment and increase their survival rates after release by around 33%.

“Lakeside took in 832 wild birds last year,” Hess added, “and many species are on endangered lists. So increasing their survival rate directly impacts threatened species.”

Lakeside also offers educational programs and coordinates community conservation projects. It has 2.5 miles of walking trails and about 70 animals on display at any given time. “Come learn about native wild animals and how to live near them,” invited Hess. The center is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Learn more about Lakeside Nature Center.