Loons, owls, and hawks in Missouri

2009 November 29
by David J. Ringer

VICKSBURG, MISS. — I went up to Missouri for the Thanksgiving weekend, and while there, I birded with good friends Charley Burwick and Lisa Berger.


Friday morning dawned clear and frosty. We started off with a Barn Owl — and any day with a Barn Owl is a good day.


Birding the grasslands, prairie fragments and agricultural areas west of Springfield, we encountered a mixed flock of blackbirds, which included several Brewer’s Blackbirds.

Last Thanksgiving, we found a Northern Shrike, and what is presumably the same bird has been seen at least twice this year in the same location; however, we couldn’t find it on Friday.

Raptors were abundant, especially Red-tailed Hawks, but harriers and kestrels were numerous, and we had both a dainty Sharp-shinned Hawk and a powerful Cooper’s.


This Red-tailed Hawk is an immature (note the pale iris, which will darken as the bird ages), and it showed no fear of our vehicle, perhaps indicating that it has come south from a region where there are no humans. (Most red-tails we encounter here spook when a vehicle begins to slow down.) The dark throat may indicate that this is a bird of the western subspecies calurus. Any thoughts?


We hit a few arms of Stockton Lake to see what we could find and Common Loons were numerous. Some obligingly swam quite close to shore. We picked through them looking for a Pacific Loon but to no avail. Other lake birds included Horned Grebes, Double-crested Cormorants, Bald Eagles, Ring-billed and Bonaparte’s Gulls, and an assortment of ducks.


This Common Loon was stretching its legs, giving a glimpse of its powerful and seemingly disproportionately large foot.


We walked fields looking for sparrows, and while we didn’t find a hoped-for LeConte’s we did get lots of Savannahs and Swamps.


Related posts:

  1. Northern (Great Grey) Shrike in southwest Missouri
  2. Gorgeous dark morph Harlan’s Hawk in Missouri
  3. Cole Camp CBC: Snow, longspurs, and owls
  4. Breeding raptors in Missouri
  5. Owls, Christmas birds, New Guinea birds
2 Responses
  1. December 1, 2009

    Owl = Good. Always. My thought was a western light morph on the hawk. You’re much better at this than I am, though, so it might as well be jellyfish for my skills! I keep going back to the loon with the leg… That photo tickles me.

    Seems like it was a good holiday outing. Hopefully it made your Thanksgiving that much better.

  2. December 3, 2009


    Your great picture confirmed what I have heard. Grebes have their feet up their ass

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