Mississippi Kites, Ictinia mississippiensis
Mississippi Kites breed in the southeastern United States, primarily in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. They also have smaller breeding populations in parts of South America, including Brazil and Argentina. They inhabit open woodlands, forest edges, parks, and suburban areas, often near rivers and lakes.
They have a slender and streamlined body with long, narrow wings and a deeply forked tail. They have a distinctive gray plumage with a lighter head and underside. Adults have a reddish-brown eye and a black “tear mark” extending from the eye down the side of the face.
Mississippi Kites are primarily insectivorous, with their diet consisting mainly of insects such as grasshoppers, dragonflies, beetles, and cicadas. They are agile aerial hunters, employing acrobatic flight maneuvers to catch insects on the wing. They are known for their graceful and buoyant flight as they swoop, dive, and hover to capture prey. Occasionally, they may also feed on small birds, reptiles, and mammals.
Mississippi Kites are known for their social behavior, often nesting in loose colonies or close proximity to other pairs.
They build nests in the upper branches of tall trees, usually near the trunk. They often choose deciduous trees like oaks, willows, and pecans, but they can also use coniferous trees. The nests are constructed with sticks, twigs, and plant materials, and are lined with softer materials such as leaves, moss, and bark strips. The male and female work together in nest construction.
Females lay 2 or 3 eggs. Incubation lasts around 27 to 30 days and is primarily performed by the female. The male assists in incubation and provides food during this period. After hatching, both parents participate in raising and feeding the young. The chicks are initially fed a diet of regurgitated insects brought by their parents, and as they grow, they are gradually introduced to larger prey items. The parents tear the food into small pieces to feed their young.
The fledging period for Mississippi Kite chicks occurs approximately 4 to 5 weeks after hatching. The young kites leave the nest and start to explore nearby branches, practicing their flight and hunting skills. The parents continue to provide food and guidance during this period.
Mississippi Kites are long-distance migrants. After the breeding season, they undertake a remarkable migration to South America, spending the winter in regions such as Brazil and Argentina.