Breeding raptors in Missouri

2007 August 1
by David J. Ringer

GREENE CO., MO. — I can hear the katydids calling tonight. It’s a sound I always associate with Ozark summers.

On this whirlwind visit, I’ve had a few moments for birding. On Saturday morning, Charley, Lisa, and I took a tour of three known raptor nests around Springfield.

We arrived first at an old-fashioned, park-like estate on the western side of town. We’d barely pulled in the driveway before a large, dark accipiter zipped low across the yard, sending a rush of adrenaline through all of our systems. The recently fledged Cooper’s Hawks were active and noisy in the trees, though we never did see the parents. I had a good look at one bird as it paused on a limb, and I noted the fine brown streaks on its breast — almost as if they were done with a pencil. This is a characteristic plumage feature of the species.

Next was an abandoned series of lots where Mississippi Kites had nested. The young bird left the nest just days before I got back, but we did see two or three kites circling in the sky overhead. At least one was molting its flight feathers. Mississippi Kites have bred at a few locations in southwest Missouri over the last few years, but they are still scarce.

Our third stop (after a half-hearted attempt failed to turn up a previously reported Painted Bunting) was at an east-side industrial complex where Swainson’s Hawks have nested for several years. This is a bit east of their usual breeding range, but they don’t seem to mind. We had good looks at two gorgeous light-morph adults. We couldn’t locate any juveniles or the nest, and it was difficult to tell whether the parents still had young in the nest or had fledglings out somewhere. We didn’t hear any young birds calling, which seemed odd.

We finished up with a surprise: three Common Loons at Fellows Lake. They were all in non-breeding plumage, and one appeared to be growing a new set of flight feathers. Do loons molt flight feathers in the fall? If I’m reading the Missouri birds checklist correctly, summer records of loons are unusual but not so much so that the need documentation.

I miss birding with Charley and Lisa and other GOASers. They helped launch my birding career, and they encouraged me to write about birds — to share my impressions and experiences with others, even in the days when my enthusiasm was far greater than either my knowledge or my skill. (So, nothing much has changed.) Thank you.

Related posts:

  1. Breeding-plumaged Neotropic Cormorants
  2. Northern (Great Grey) Shrike in southwest Missouri
  3. Gorgeous dark morph Harlan’s Hawk in Missouri
  4. Loons, owls, and hawks in Missouri
  5. Birder 86

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