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The Ivory Bill·Birds·Hawks & Owls
 

Swallow-tailed Kites, Elanoides forficatus

Swallow-tailed kites

Swallow-tailed Kites are primarily found in the Americas. They inhabit a range of habitats, including wetlands, marshes, swamps, open woodlands, and forest edges. They are most commonly found in the southeastern United States, including Florida and parts of Georgia and South Carolina, southward through Central America to South America, including the Amazon rainforest and to northern Argentina and Uruguay.

Swallow-tailed Kites are known for their striking appearance, featuring long, deeply forked tails that give them their name. They have sleek bodies, slender wings, and a white head and underparts contrasting with black upperparts. They have red eyes and a sharply curved beak.

Swallow-tailed Kites are highly skilled flyers, exhibiting impressive aerial displays, soaring effortlessly and performing acrobatic maneuvers. They emit high-pitched calls and chatter between themselves when alarmed.

Swallow-tailed Kites are aerial hunters that feed primarily on insects. They have a specialized diet, with a strong preference for large flying insects, such as dragonflies, beetles, and grasshoppers. They capture prey while in flight, performing acrobatic maneuvers to snatch insects mid-air. They are known for their ability to catch prey with their feet and transfer it to their beaks during flight.

Swallow-tailed Kites build stick nests in tall trees, typically in forested or wetland areas near bodies of water. They often choose isolated trees, such as cypress or pine, for nesting. They construct large, sturdy nests using twigs and line the inner surface with softer materials like moss or leaves. They may also incorporate Spanish moss into their nests for added camouflage.

Females typically lay 2 to 4 eggs. Incubation lasts for approximately 28 to 32 days, with both parents taking turns incubating the eggs. After hatching, the parents share the responsibility of feeding and caring for the young. The chicks are initially fed regurgitated food by both parents until they are able to consume pieces of torn prey. The young Kites grow rapidly and develop their flight feathers, preparing for their first flights.

The fledging period for Swallow-tailed Kites occurs around 6 to 7 weeks after hatching. The young Kites gradually gain strength and coordination, exercising their flight muscles and practicing flying skills within the vicinity of the nest. Once they fledge, they become independent and begin to explore their surroundings.

Swallow-tailed Kites are long-distance migrants. They undertake impressive migrations, flying from their breeding grounds in North and Central America to their wintering grounds in South America, particularly the Amazon rainforest. They are social birds and often gather in small groups, known as “kettles,” during migration, where they engage in synchronized flight.