Thursday, July 17, 2014

Mississippi Kite

Ten Mississippi kites were reported at Hagerman NWR on the Tuesday Bird Census, July 15, 2014.  Visitors have been coming in to the Visitor Center asking about a hawk-like bird with a light colored head for several weeks now. 

Mississippi kite at HNWR, posted on  the Friends Facebook Page
by  Claudia Browning
Here is a description, from Cornell’s All About Birds

“Medium-sized hawk. Long, narrow, pointed wings. Long black tail. Head pearly gray. Body darker gray. Pale patch on rear edge of wings as seen from above.
Mississippi kite at HNWR by Nancy M. Miller
 After spending the winter in tropical South America, Mississippi kites come to the southern and central US to breed   .Mississippi kites usually lay two white eggs in twig nests that rest in a variety of deciduous trees.  Over time their nesting habitat has come to include wooded areas in suburban and urban development.
From Wikipedia:
“Mississippi kites nest in colonies and both parents (paired up before arriving at the nesting site) incubate the eggs and care for the young. They have one clutch a year which takes 30 to 32 days to hatch. The young birds leave the nest another 30 to 35 days after hatching. Only about half of kites successfully raise their young. Clutches fall victim to storms and predators such as raccoons and great horned owls. Because of the reduced amount of predators in urban areas, Mississippi kites produce more offspring in urban areas than rural areas. They have an average lifespan of 8 years.”
Kites feed on mostly insects. From the National Audubon Society website:  
"This graceful, buoyant kite is a marvelous flier and spends hours in the air. It is quite gregarious, often seen in flocks and even nesting in loose colonies. Although chiefly insectivorous, feeding largely on grasshoppers and dragonflies, it occasionally takes small snakes and frogs."
Although the voice is not often heard, click to listen to  a recorded call, from the MacauleyLibrary.  Be sure to watch for the Mississippi kit at Hagerman NWR this summer!

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