Today as my wife and I returned from the grocery store, we spooked our
resident Red-shouldered Hawk from a tree near our driveway with a long
dangling object in its talons. It set up in a walnut tree in back, and I
set the scope up to observe. We watched for the next 10 minutes or so as it
devoured a 3-foot long snake in it's entirety... it was the kind of moment
where you just beg to have a beginning birdwatcher to show. We have seen an
adult Red-shouldered Hawk consistently since the summer, when a pair of
adults used to circle over the yard.

RSHA are listed as rare residents in northern Missouri on the annotated
checklist, but I am wondering if that has changed. I haven't been birding
long enough to say anything of value about past distribution.

I live in Lincoln county, technically in northern Missouri but just barely.
As I've been in the area for the past several months, however, I've noticed
that Red-shouldered Hawks are the dominant buteo species surrounding Troy.
I have seen them perched on fencerows in pasture country (?), in small
creek drainages in town, and also in my backyard, an upland park-like
setting. They are also present in the more expected setting of the wooded
Cuivre River bottoms and larger creek drainages.

I also remember detecting these birds at Union Ridge CA consistently in far
northern Missouri just shy of Iowa (they were permanent residents there),
and have detected them in other spots north of I-70.

My question, spurred by my recent sightings-- have Red-shouldered Hawks
expanded their range, or perhaps their density in that range? The other
question, given I saw this snake eating a cold-blooded creature today--have
warmer temps perhaps aided this? I don't know all the specifics of RSHA
dietary preferences but I know they lean more towards herps and aquatic
creatures than other buteos--dietary choices made more difficult by cold
winters, and eased by milder ones.

Otto Widman's *Birds of Missouri (1907) *states that RSHA were common in
any area of the state that was wooded, but that as forests were cleared for
agriculture, birds quickly disappeared. Perhaps it's just a comeback?

Curious to get thoughts from others, especially from those who can speak
about decades past.

Phil Wire
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Troy, Lincoln Co.

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