Bird of the Week: Mississippi Kite

The Mississippi Kite is an uncommonly graceful and elegant raptor. Like toy kites, these smoky black and gray birds seem to defy gravity, drifting on air currents and scanning for prey. In fact, the toys are named for their resemblance to the bird, and not the other way round! Being on the small side, Mississippi Kites favor grasshoppers and cicadas over birds and mammals, though they’re not above chasing the odd frog, bat or swallow. Often, they will devour their prey in the air, grasping it in one talon while taking bites. Because of their preference for woodland edges and their adaptable diets, Mississippi Kites have benefited from urban sprawl, nesting in parks, golf courses, and even buildings. This can sometimes be an issue for humans unlucky enough to stumble on a kite’s territory– they have a habit of dive-bombing intruders! Though their breeding range is north and east of central Texas, spring and fall migration provide many opportunities to see these graceful birds. Lucky observers may even spot flocks of kites, dozens or even hundreds strong, winging their way south for the winter. Exactly how far south is an open question, as little is known about their wintering grounds.

Compiled by Owen Moorhead. Sources include the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society.
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