Mississippi Kite

Ictinia mississippiensis
Range Map

Kites are raptors whose hunting style incorporates a hovering flight over open areas such as grasslands. Using shallow wing-strokes, they give the impression that they are tethered by a long string held by someone on the ground. World-wide, there are 249 species classified as kites, and they are found everywhere except Antarctica. In North America we have five species, the smallest of which is the Mississippi Kite.

The breeding range for these raptors has evolved in North America since the European invasion, but while some habitat modifications have had a negative impact, other practices have proven beneficial. Today, the heart of the Mississippi Kite’s breeding range centers in the southern Great Plains from west Texas and Oklahoma, east through the lower Mississippi Valley, and southeastern USA to the southern and central Atlantic Seaboard. There are pockets adjoining the regions described here where smaller populations are regularly reported. After breeding, these birds migrate over 5,000 miles south to South America’s Pantanal in Paraguay and northern Argentina.

Taxonomists regard the Mississippi Kite as monotypic (no subspecies).

I first encountered Mississippi Kites during a “2021 Big Sit” birding event at the National Butterfly Center in Mission Texas, but these were at such a high altitude, I rejected all the images I captured. I enjoyed more intimate visits in August 2022 while visiting friends in Kansas.

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