Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Morning for the Mississippi Kite

When I turned the corner to enter the marina at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis, I was sure that the Mississippi Kite that had been seen the day before would be gone. I did not realize that for the next couple of hours I would be observing the fascinating behavior of a very cooperative sub-adult Mississippi Kite. I had only seen Mississippi Kites one other time in southern Indiana at Lincoln State Park and that was only in flight. In Indiana, Kites only occur in the extreme southern portion where they breed each summer. They rarely stray into central and northern Indiana. Although Mississippi Kites are rare in the area, they have been quickly expanding their range farther north into Indiana in recent years. During the two hours that I watched the Kite it made five stoops for prey and came up with a meal each time. Each meal it caught was a cicada but it also feeds on dragonflies and other insects as do all of the other North American Kites. Some Kite species such as the Swallow-tailed Kite feed on prey other then insects, like small rodents. The Kite hit each cicada with such an impact that every time it caught one, one of its wings would fall off. After the catch the Kite took its prey back to the same perch each time and removed the shell to eat the cicada inside. I had never been able to observe such a cooperative raptor, hunting. During this time many birders came and went much too quickly and never observed the kite while hunting. I have observed that a lot of birders have a tendency to move to quickly when looking for birds. Many birders just want to see the next bird, check it off their list and move on to the next lifer. They always get ahead of themselves and they never really learn about the birds. Of course each person needs to decide for themselves what approach they want to take when observing birds but I believe that you see more birds and learn more about the birds you are seeing by being patient and taking your surroundings in.

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