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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