Date: 8/11/17 9:57 pm
From: David Tan <melanerpers56...>
Subject: [Ohio-birds] Mississippi Kite Worthington Aug. 11
PH. 5 pm. 5 min. Worthington, mature tall deciduous trees, near
Olen tangy River
40.0887 -83.0101

Becoming annual in many parts of mid west and northeast. I wouldn't
be surprised if this kite is promoted to Regular status within a few
years. For example, in the mid Atlantic as recently as mid 1990 it
was considered a vagrant, few people "lucky" enough to see on in VA or
MD. In a span of less than 10 years, it went from vagrant to UNC
breeding resident along the upper Potomac, northern VA and suburbs of
DC! (also IL, IO, MO, NE, CO). It is nesting in New England.

Mississippi Kite is a lot easier to identify than it is to document.
Once you’ve seen them skimming dragonflies in flight or spinning on a
dime kiting with little to no effort, the combination areal
supremacy, flight style and overall shape to be unique and diagnostic.
But how do you describe all this in words adequately enough to
preclude other raptors from consideration? Frankly, I’m not entirely
sure I can. I've never been good at this. You have to see one!

This bird was foraging for large aerial insects catching and eating
them on the wing. Buoyant, wings flat or very slightly bowed, foraging
on the wing just over canopy twisting and flaring tail, maneuvering
with grace and ease as it foraged, no flapping. An exceptional flier.
A smallish raptor (straight long wings and tail make it look bigger),
slim body, small head. Long wings, long narrow based tail often

Mississippi Kite’s is distinctive, not like a falcon at all. Very
long wings, straight trialling edge to tip, with unique hand, and a
narrow based fanned hard cornered tail are compelling. The wing/hand
shape results partly from the relatively short length of P10 and 9;
this oft-mentioned field mark can be misleading by a inadequate quick
look, esp. going away, and flying accipiter, buteo, or harrier can
take a similar look. The key is if you can stay with it, it will
always reveal it to be a MK eventually. The Mississippi Kite passing
overhead or maneuvering to capture a large insect, the under side of
the flight feathers were seen to be blackish on the primaries paler on
inner primaries and outer secondaries becoming dark or blackish again
on the inner secondaries, the coverts paler. This indicates most
likely a bird completing its first year. The tail, often mobile as it
forages, wide at tip and sharp corners leading to straight outer edges
and very narrow at base; creating a strong fan that is often twisted
and turned. The tail looked black not banded but were likely present
-- a 1st year bird. Adult MIKI have pale heads and distinct white
wing panel on upper wing. Ad females will not show white heads nor any
youngster (juveniles (i.e., first-year birds). Juveniles have a tail
with narrow white bands, very similar to the tail pattern of a Merlin.
And older juveniles can have this seemingly obvious pattern much

Most consider Kiting Raptors to just means the same thing as hovering,
a term used for bull dozers like Red-tailed. But the mastery of areal
dynamics of Mississippi Kite is not at all like any buteo or American
Kestrel. I remember hearing very experience observers believing they
were observing a Peregrine until its graceful manners in snatching
dragonflies out of the air left them dumb struck. Actually, they are
a much lighter and smaller, with wingspan slightly greater than
Merlin. The shape of the hand due to short p10, slender narrow wings,
and long square tail (fanned, narrow at base) are unique. (Swainson’s
Hawk although not to be confused, to me, has a similar shape to the
hand due to shorter p10)

It has like molted earlier, as it was not in active molt, This is a
species with few diagnostic plumage features, but a Mississippi Kite
is in wing and tail nothing else. It is a Mississippi Kite. I could
describe it simple “small dark raptor. . .the bird was very dark, had
pointed wings and a long tail square and fan shaped. . .no streaking
was visible.” Or: "was seen in flight without binoculars, that it
had pointed wings and did not fly like an accipiter, and when seen
with binoculars after it perched “it had a lighter head with a small
bill and a dark body.” And in simplest terms give a adequate
description of a MIKI.

I am very familiar with MIKI from most SE states and mid Atlantic
states; as well as southern US and the SW. They like towns and
residential areas with abundant mature deciduous trees with full
crowns, often near water.

PH on ebirds
David Tan


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