I am very fortunate to live in a subdivision in south east Texas, which is also home to a colony of Mississippi Kites every summer. These beautiful raptors arrive from South America in mid-April, and begin building their nests - a rather flimsy looking platform of twigs - within a couple of weeks of arriving. They only spend 4 to 5 months with us before they leave on their southbound journey at the end of August. Mississippi Kites feed mainly on insects and it is fascinating to watch them catch dragon flies, holding the insect in their talons and eating whilst in flight.
This page was last updated on: May 19, 2013
1997 was the first year I discovered a couple of fledgling kites just down the street, and I could hardly believe that they should be so close to my home. The following Spring (98) I photographed the adult kites (above) on the same snag, but the next winter the homeowner removed the snag from his front yard and the kites didn't return to his backyard in 99. Luckily for me, they moved into a group of trees on the edge of the golfcourse, quite close to my house. They raised one young kite, and I was lucky to get photos of a parent kite on the nest with the young one almost ready to fledge (see the 2 photos below).
The pair of Mississippi Kites (Ictinia mississippiensis) in the Spring of 1998
The pair of kites built in the same tree in the spring of 2000, but the nest was not as easy to see and I couldn't take any photos. However, I did get some photos of the kites while they roosted in a nearby willow tree, in the mornings or evenings (below).
Adult Mississippi Kite with nestling (in foreground), photographed on August 9th, 1999, at 7:30 pm..
Text and photos by Helen Baines
(except where noted)
Sadly, in April 2001, they began to nest in the same tree as the previous year, but were scared off by tree trimming activities on the golf course. I knew there were still several pairs in the neighborhood, but was not able to locate a nest. The juveniles fledging in August are usually very vocal, while they perch on a bare branch near the nest site, waiting for the parents to feed them. This makes it easy to find them, and I did locate one - see below.
All the photos above were taken with an old Canon A1, and a 210mm telephoto lens, some using a 3x extender. I am hoping to be able to get some better photos in the future, with my digital camera and a spotting scope - a system called digiscoping.
Adult Mississippi Kite on a willow tree (just across the street from my home!) August 2000
Juvenile Mississippi Kite, preening and stretching on the same willow tree, August 2000
In the summer of 2001, I heard about another colony of Mississippi Kites in a residential area of Bedford, Texas on the north side of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. This delightful photograph was sent to me by the birder, who had been watching several nests in the area.
Mississippi Kite nestlings photographed with a digital camera, by Ruben Ayala on July 17th, 2001 in a residential area of Bedford, Texas
This juvenile Mississippi Kite is one of the 2001 fledglings, and could be found perched on power lines every morning through the month of August. I used an Olympus C700 Ultra Zoom digital camera on full 10x optical zoom. The photo was then cropped and edited with ACDSee software.
Adult Mississippi Kite in flight showing the distinctive shorter first primary feather in the wings