Today’s winner of the photography challenge is the pair of Mississippi kites that I saw on my morning walk at Boomer Lake. Truthfully, I almost missed seeing them—I’d turned at just the right time to see a bird swoop into a tree, and when I went to get a closer look, I realized that it was a pair of Mississippi kites.
I’ve seen the kites all summer—but usually when they’re just swooping around in the sky foraging for flying insects and they’re usually a good block or so away and I can never get a good picture. Today I managed to get several good pictures of them.
The Mississippi kite (Ictinia mississippiensis) is a bird of prey that spends its summers in both the southeastern and southwestern parts of the United States (it winters down in central South America). Unlike larger birds of prey, the Mississippi kite feeds primarily on insects though will also forage on small reptiles, amphibians, smaller birds, small mammals and bats.
These graceful birds can be seen throughout the day flying and soaring though the sky as they hunt for their meals. Since these are social birds, usually they can be seen in groups as small as just a pair, upwards to a dozen or more (depending on how main breeding pairs and yearlings are in the area).
As much as I’d like to get a picture of the youngsters—I’m going to need a better lens that zooms as the pairs are fiercely territorial and will dive bomb anything that gets to close to the nest. Obviously this morning, either the tree where they were perched didn’t contain the nest, or the youngsters are old enough that the parents don’t dive bomb any more, or I was still far enough away that they didn’t see me as a threat.
And here are a couple of more unusual facts about these graceful birds:
They may build their nests near (or incorporate) a wasp nest to help protect their eggs and chicks from climbing predators (because who wants to mess with a colony of wasps?).
They allow certain smaller birds to nest near them (namely mockingbirds, blue jays, and house sparrows).
Facts and trivia were found at: www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Mississippi_Kite/overview
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