Photos and article by Kathryn Mann
I have been enjoying the outdoors of Oklahoma for many years and have found that many birds return to the same area every year. There is a Mississippi Kite that loves to perch on the same branch of the same tree every Spring and Summer. As we have become more familiar with one another he actually lets me come within 20 feet without feeling threatened or disturbed. This is a good thing because these birds are very protective and will often swoop down and attack people they feel are potential threats. They are a very quiet bird and rarely make a sound except when frightened.
Mississippi Kite perching on his favorite spot in northeast Oklahoma
Even though Mississippi Kites often live in colonies, I have only once seen another Kite within even a quarter mile of this one's roost. In the wild Misssippi Kites often live 10 years.
Mississippi Kite staring at me as I come very close to his lookout
The Mississippi Kite is a raptor like a hawk or falcon. Their wingspan is three feet long and they are typically a foot and half long at maturity. They have dark red eyes with a light grey head that appears to be white in bright sun. The rest of their body is battleship grey and their wing feathers are black.
This Mississippi Kite has just spotted a meal and is about to take to the air
Despite their size Mississippi Kites rarely weigh more than 12 ounces which makes their bodies especially buoyant as they glide through the air capturing insects. It is not unusual for them to stay aloft looking for prey for several hours at a time. Besides insects they sometimes eat rodents, lizards, frogs, snakes, and even fish that reside in shallow water. Farmers like these birds because they especially love eating grasshoppers and cicadas, both of which they capture in the air.
Mississippi Kites have one of the longest migrations of any bird. They spend the Fall and Winter in South America as far down as Argentina and then return in late April or May to the central part of the United States, usually no further north than where I live in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. That is a distance of about 5,500 miles in each direction.