Thursday, July 18, 2013
Mississippi Kites in Kentucky
A few years ago, Raptor Rehab of Ky took in a Mississippi Kite, found in far western Kentucky, which had been impressed on humans and couldn't be released. He was the sweetest bird, who was happy to eat meal worms from your hand, and sang every time you walked in his cage. These Kites normally migrate to Argentina every winter, to have a good ongoing supply of insects to catch and eat on the wing. Although we did our best to keep him warm over the winter, he developed respiratory problems and didn't survive. We still miss little Miki.
In the last few days, emails and messages are going around about a pair of Kites actually nesting in a nearby Louisville neighborhood. I normally would expect to find them closer to a nice open field where it's easy to find and catch large flying insects, but the local residents say they have been here for a couple years now.
For someone unfamiliar with this raptor, and I'd never heard of them till Miki came to RROKI, you might think this was a Mourning Dove or maybe a Pigeon. They have long dark wings and a long tail - all the better for catching grasshoppers and cicadas! But look at the eyes, which are surrounded by dark feathers making them look really big. The sharp hooked beak also says this is a raptor.
Kites have many features expected in a falcon - the long wings and tail, and dark around the eyes - an example of form following function. When you are chasing speedy flying insects you have to be fast and maneuverable. Their usual habitat is in the plains area, where they are known to nest in colonies. The young birds come back to the same area after their first migration, and help feed and tend the new nestlings. After their second migration, they will get these beautiful feathers and red eyes, indicating they are sexually mature. I must admit, this was the easiest life bird I've ever found!