Birding Notes

Reflections on birds and other wildlife on the edge of a southern woodland

Monday, August 04, 2008

Swallow-tailed Kites

This morning about 10:45-11:00 four Swallow-tailed Kites were soaring and catching insects over our neighborhood. They flew high in a hazy blue sky, and I could hardly believe it when I saw their deeply forked tails. They gradually circled closer until they were directly over me, and I watched for several minutes as they sailed like seabirds on long, slender, black and white wings and swerved to catch insects in the air. They were spectacular!

Two Mississippi Kites were soaring with them when I first saw them, and they all gradually circled and moved from east to west. After they disappeared in the distance, a single Swallow-tailed Kite appeared in the east again and circled a few times before disappearing back to the east – I don’t know if this was a fifth, or if it was one of the first four.

This was about the same time of day when I saw two Mississippi Kites here yesterday.

One of the best descriptions of Swallow-tailed Kites I’ve read is on the National Audubon Society’s Watchlist, which identifies them as a species of concern because of their seriously declining populations:

“Spreading its forked tail as it soars, the Swallow-tailed Kite looks like a flying star. This black and white raptor patrols the air over the wooded blackwater rivers and wetlands of the southeastern United States. Its nimble flight requires little exertion and allows this kite to eat on the wing. In North America, the primary cause of its steep decline is the loss of wetlands.” *

We’re very lucky to see them here sometimes during the late summer.

*A link to the National Audubon Society Watchlist is in the column on the right.


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