A Kite Up A Tree

Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis)
Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis)

Mississippi Kites are a common sight around our neighborhood. We’ll generally find a pair nesting in one of the tall trees in our front yard every year. The bird in these first three photographs landed at the highest point in a Live Oak Tree (Quercus virginiana) in our neighbor’s back yard and hunkered down to survey the territory.

Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis)
Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis)

Things get very quiet when these birds are around. Smaller birds head for shelter as soon as the first warning of their appearance is sounded, usually by Blue Jays. The raucous cacophony of a swarm of jays is a great early alert system! But that doesn’t mean everybody runs and hides.

Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis) and American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis) and American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

Mrs. Robin (above) didn’t take kindly to the idea of this guy hanging around and she let her feelings be known in no uncertain terms, haranguing him unmercifully. Not that Mr. Kite seemed to pay her any mind! He finally took off for greener pastures. Mrs. Robin was just a streak of color as she took off after him!

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

What is there to know about Mississippi Kites?

  • Mississippi Kites are raptors of the Accipitridae¬†family and are related to a wide variety of hawks and eagles.
  • They are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, making it unlawful to tamper with the birds, their eggs or their nests.
  • Mississippi Kites average about 12-14 inches in length with a wingspan of about 3 feet.
  • They feed mostly on large insects such as locusts and grasshoppers, catching them in flight. They may also eat small birds and small mammals such as mice.
  • Mississippi Kites are common in the central and southern United States, though they have been found as far northeast as New England.
  • Their winter migration takes them into South America.
  • They are more common in the southern Great Plains than in Mississippi!
  • Incubation of the eggs of the Mississippi Kite takes about 30 days and the young are fed by their parents for about 8 weeks.
  • Mississippi Kites make a distinct high-pitched “tweee-toooo” sound as they soar in circles looking for prey.

Below is a slideshow of a Mississippi Kite that was doing some acrobatics in a tree the other day. After a few minutes of jostling among the limbs he flew away with a twig in his mouth. I would hazard a guess that he’s making a nest somewhere close by and needed some building materials!

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10 thoughts on “A Kite Up A Tree

  1. Stunning photos. I cannot imagine how exciting to have these nesting in and around your gardens every year, though I can imagine how other smaller birds might not share my enthusiasm! We occasionally get a hawk or owl passing through – we haven’t had any nesting in our trees for a while, potentially due to renovation and construction noise along our street. As you say, the strident jays are usually the first (or at least the loudest) to sound the alarm.


  2. A most enjoyable, and interesting post and great pictures. We get Red Kites here in the UK, but the only bird of prey that I’m likely to see hereabouts is a Sparrowhawk. xx


  3. thank you for a really interesting post – and great photos. I’ve never heard of Mississippi kites – we have Red kites here in the UK – often seen along the motorways hunting… don’t see them often in towns or cities though – they were endangered for a long time.


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