|Mississippi Kite's keystone-shaped tail shows in this silhouette composite photo by George Thomas|
|adult male Mississippi Kite, photo by MRHSfan|
By August, the young are in flight and I occasionally hear them call. It's a strange sound—imagine a flycatcher impersonating a Broad-winged Hawk's two-note whistle. Click the play button to hear the recording below, also Creative Commons. Kites show up predictably at favorite perches around the neighborhood; always on dead snags atop mature trees. About 3 weeks ago I saw a group of 6 kites, including at least 2 juveniles, in a half-dead oak. Not far away, I could hear a 7th bird calling. Sometimes 2 or 3 will circle overhead. Are these local birds or the first migrants? I wish I knew.
When I first started birding seriously, in the early 90s, I saw my life Mississippi Kites in Webster Groves. Birders at that time said Webster was about as far north as they were found in summer, but now they breed up into Iowa.
They are predominantly insect eaters, so they must head south in fall. Conventional wisdom says that all the kites will be gone from Missouri by the end of the first week of September, but curiously, the first are record of Mississippi Kite was in autumn, on September 22, 1956 (Birds of the St. Louis Area; Where and When to Find Them, Webster Groves Nature Study Society, 1995). They migrate through Texas, along the east coast of Mexico, through Central and northwestern South America. Their non-breeding range is Bolivia, western Brazil, Paraguay, and northern Argentina. See this range map on the Cornell U website. Check out this spectacular video of a flock of kites migrating through Soberanía National Park in Panama, taken by Dave Jackson in April, 2007.
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