Mississippi Kite In Cochise County
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The other day I posted some images of a relatively uncommon bird — a young Gray Hawk making the transition from juvenile to adult plumage. Today, I’m posting images of something that is much more uncommon, at least in southern Arizona. This is a Mississippi Kite.
Mississippi Kites are hawk-like raptors whose native range includes much of the southern United States. That range extends westward into Texas and the southeastern corner of New Mexico. And, there it stops. Except that there are a couple of tiny populations of these birds — just a handful of them — in southern Arizona. In Cochise County, between Benson and Tombstone, there is a community of perhaps a half-dozen or so Mississippi Kites. How they got there is anyone’s guess.
Mississippi Kites are insectivores, feeding mainly on large insects like dragonflies, which they capture on the wing. They are impressive fliers. Like much smaller insectivores, flycatchers for example, Mississippi Kites are capable of awe-inspiring aerial maneuvers as they chase down their prey. Dragonflies are extraordinarily adept fliers in their own right and often engage in aerobatics that may include loops and rolls. The kites, somehow, are capable of pursuing these insects, matching their maneuvers, and seizing them from mid-air.
These birds have very distinctive plumage, solid gray on their backs and outer wings, pearly white on their breasts, abdomens, and heads. They also have distinctive eyes, which range in color from deep red with some individuals to dark amber.
The southern Arizona population of Mississippi Kites is a breeding population and that raises hopes that they may expand their numbers here. I’ll go back to the kites’ location later this summer to see if I can find fledglings.
Images made with a Canon 5Div, 100-400mm ISII zoom lens+1.4x telextender, aperture priority setting, ISO 1000, f8 @ 1/1000.