Mississippi KiteIctinia mississippiensis

adult male
Greg Lasley/VIREO
adult female
Brian K. Wheeler/VIREO
juvenile
Dustin Huntington/VIREO
adult male
Richard Stade/VIREO
immature female (1st yr)
Brian K. Wheeler/VIREO
Mississippi Kite

Description

12-14" (30-36 cm). W. 3' (91 cm). A small bird of prey with narrow pointed wings. Adult gray, paler below and on head; tail and outer flight feathers in wings blackish, inner flight feathers whitish. Young bird streaked below, with banded tail.

Voice

2 or 3 high clear whistles, seldom heard.

Habitat

Open woodlands and thickets, usually near water.

Range

Breeds from Arizona and southern Great Plains east to Carolinas and south to Gulf Coast. Its range has expanded somewhat in recent years; increasingly wanders north to southern New England in spring. Winters in tropics.

Discussion

This graceful, buoyant kite is a marvelous flier and spends hours in the air. It is quite gregarious, often seen in flocks and even nesting in loose colonies. Although chiefly insectivorous, feeding largely on grasshoppers and dragonflies, it occasionally takes small snakes and frogs.

Nesting

2 or 3 white eggs in a stick nest placed in a tree.

Similar Species

adult

Swallow-tailed Kite

22-24" (56-61 cm). W. 4' 2" (1.3 m). A graceful bird of prey, with long pointed wings and deeply forked tail; head and underparts white; back, wings, and tail black.

adult

White-tailed Kite

15-16" (38-41 cm). W. 3' 4" (1 m). A delicate, graceful, gull-like bird of prey. Largely white, with gray back, black patch on shoulder and undersurface of the pointed wing, and white tail.

adult

Peregrine Falcon

15-21" (38-53 cm). W. 3' 4" (1 m). A large robust falcon with a black hood and wide black "mustaches." Adults slate-gray above and pale below, with fine black bars and spots.

Vireo

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