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Tom,  I misread your first email.   "Yesterday morning (around 8:45) I
watched a soaring, gliding, plunging hunter (raptor?) work the Missouri
side of the Mississippi River for more than ten minutes. The flight was
graceful and puncuated with swooping glides and turns. Twice he (?)
pulled up short and plunged downward 
(presumably for some food item). The flying took place over a farm a
couple 
miles upstream from Portage Des Sioux." 

I latched onto the over the Missouri River and upstream from P Des S.
With the additional discription, distance of viewing, behavior and the
trapezoid nearer the body, I offer a different species. I would say that
raptor is probably a sure choice, given no ponds or river. Flight
behavior would indicate kites, falcons, harriers, rough-legged hawk,
SEOW, LEOW, BAOW. A few rarities might be added. The SEOW, LEOW and BAOW
wouldn't be likely during the daylight and do not have trapezoidal white
patches near the body. Falcons don't have the trapezoid or the behavior
that is harrier like. No white rump, whick I would think you would see
easily after a while, especially because you mentioned a different
shaped white. So to kites, White-tailed would look like a tern or gull
with its whiteness, and Mississippi KIte wouldn't flash a defined white
trapezoid, although they do approach a graduated silvery-white on the
wings in the right sun angle. The only thing left is the Rough-legged
Hawk, which does fit all of you description. It does have a trapezoidal
showy white base to the tail, which flashes clearly in females more than
males. It is close to the body, and could appear to be on the wing
depending on the angle from your mile distance vantage point. The light
morph could easily have the combination of wing patterns. Actually in
the last two weeks I have seen my first two RLHAs in a long while on my
40 minute drive to work. I go through about 20 miles of RLHA habitat and
in many winters see them regularly. I don't have a feel for their
abundance this winter elsewhere, but I suggest that it might be the
harrier sized bird, with appropriate behavior.

brad

Brad Jacobs
PO Box 180
Jefferson City, MO  65102
(573) 751-4115  Ext.3648
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>>> Tom Fuller <[log in to unmask]> 01/28/06 4:35 PM >>>
Dear Mobirders,

Several good suggestions have been offered about yesterday's mystery
bird. 
We see male Northern Harriers almost every visit to Riverlands. (We saw
a 
male and female Northern Harrier this morning.) It has a quite different

look from the top. Unless it was a *very* oddly colored Harrier, it
seems 
unlikely. Bonaparte's Gull has some whitish around the front/outer
section 
of the wing, but the mystery bird had white "trapezoids" closer to the
body 
and a dark section (gray to black) at the "outboard" part of the wing. 
(Which is why I flirted momentarily with Sabine's, but that passed.)
Also 
the body was darker and longer than a Bonaparte's.

A Harrier is nearer the right body style for the mystery bird, but the 
wingtop/body coloring is not close. The mystery bird had those white
marks 
and was missing the white rump. (It's hard to watch a Northern Harrier
for 
10 minutes in a wide variety of flying postures and never see a white
rump. 
But that's perhaps just my experience or inexperience.)

I'm still in the market for alternatives.

I agree with the three responders that a Mississippi Kite is hard to 
"swallow." I didn't see any dragonflies or grasshoppers around
yesterday!

As I mentioned this morning, the mystery bird dove twice at something in

the farm field. The "dives" appeared to be feet first. One time the dive

took it below the brush line; I don't know if it touched the ground or
not. 
The other time, it seemed to snatch something several feet above the 
ground. Maybe it changed its mind, or maybe it got something in the air.

Too far to say.

This may just be one of those unidentifiable birds that Kaufman, Sibley,

and others warn us about.

Thanks to all.

Tom Fuller



Dr. Thomas H. Fuller, Jr.
Math and Computer Science
Principia College
Elsah, IL 62028
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