Mississippi Kite

These small majestic birds are summer residents in Oklahoma. Luckily for me–there are several pairs that decided that Boomer Lake would make a good ‘summer’ home, and I usually manage to at least catch sight of them on my walks.

Mississippi Kites sitting on top of cedar trees at Boomer Lake

Though due to the pandemic, I didn’t do as many walks at Boomer Lake last summer like I normally do–but they also flew through the neighborhood looking for snacks.

Mississippi Kite sitting in the cottonwood looking for something.

These birds are fairly small (though larger than a crow, they’re still smaller than many of their relatives in the family), with long pointed wings, a long square-tipped tail, and a small hooked beak.

In terms of color, they’re a mix of gray and black–with the body being dark gray, wingtips and tail being black, and the neck and head being a pale gray. This color combination can make them difficult to spot on overcasts/cloudy mornings at the lake.

Mississippi Kite sitting at the top of another dead tree in the neighborhood

Mississippi kites are mostly seen in the southeastern, central, and southwestern parts of the US during their breeding season, though individuals or pairs have been spotted in other parts of the US. They then migrate further south into Mexico, Central America, and South America for the winter.

Range map of the Mississippi Kite. Orange dots mark other sightings of them during the summer. Map (c) birds of the world

In terms of where they can be spotted, it varies depending on the region of the country. For example, when they migrate into Stillwater one of their spots is the city park. Therefore they’re easy to spot soaring in the sky above the park (and surrounding neighborhoods), sitting on the utility poles, and even sitting at the top of trees.

Their diet consists mainly of medium to large insects such as beetles, leafhoppers, and grasshoppers. In addition they may also eat frogs, toads, lizards, small turtles, snakes, small birds, small mammals, and the occasional bat.

Mississippi Kite on a utility wire with a snack

They will forage either as a large group (which is amazing to see) or on their own.

Some other little tidbits:

Unlike other raptor species, whose chicks frequently commit siblicide–the chicks of Mississippi Kites will actually preen each other, move around the nesting material together, and actually show very little aggression towards each other. This is rarity in the raptor world.

They also like to build their nests around wasp nests. The reason–the wasps help to deter any climbing predators from getting near the nest–because who really wants to risk upsetting an entire wasp nest just to get to a couple of eggs or chicks?

Mississippi Kite at the top of a cedar tree at Boomer Lake

They will also allow smaller birds to nest near them (usually most birds are extremely territorial and will chase off all birds), and those smaller birds include mockingbirds, blue jays, and house sparrows.

My photography goals include: getting a picture of a group of them soaring together hunting. I noticed them several times last summer on an evening walk with the dogs–but I never had my camera with me. Another goal, would be an picture of an immature Mississippi Kite after it has started to leave the nest (not too early–because I don’t want to upset mom & dad kite).

Reference: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/mississippi_kite