Beyond the BackyardLake Apopka

Mississippi Kites

In my last post I wrote about the Swallow-tailed Kites and their pre-migratory gathering over insect-covered fields.  These beautiful black-and-white raptors have a cousin, the Mississippi Kite, who is pretty rare in Florida but can be found…you guessed it…at the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive.

Mississippi Kite
Mississippi Kite

The photo above is an adult Mississippi Kite.  He’s smaller than a Swallow-tailed cousin, and he tends to fly higher, which is particularly annoying to photographers. ;-)

The photo below is a juvenile Mississippi Kite.  Note his streaked undersides.  He’s easy to confuse with a hawk at a distance due to the streaking in his tail.

Juvenile Mississippi Kite
Juvenile Mississippi Kite

The Mississippi Kites, like their swallow-tailed comrades, also eat on the wing.  Here a kite spots an insect, grabs it in his talons, and then eats it on the wing.

Mississippi Kite Spots a Bug
Mississippi Kite Spots a Bug
Mississippi Kite Grabs the Bug with his Talons
Mississippi Kite Grabs the Bug with his Talons
Mississippi Kite Mid-Air Snack
Mississippi Kite Mid-Air Snack

The next time you’re on an airplane and they offer you an in-flight meal, think about how convenient it is not to have to catch it with your feet!

Sometimes a bird would drop his bug. Then he would dive for it, spreading his wings and his tail as he quickly maneuvered through the skies.  It was pretty cool!

Mississippi Kite on a Mission
Mississippi Kite on a Mission

It was a real challenge to photograph these birds.  They mixed in with the hundreds of Swallow-tailed Kites and also a few vultures who were soaring on the thermals.  I got really good at doing tail checks…”swallow-tailed….swallow-tailed…hey, you’re different!  nope, vulture!”

Mississippi Kite
Mississippi Kite

Only a couple of the Mississippi Kites came close enough for any half-decent pictures, and all of these are significantly cropped.  It’s a fun challenge at a fun place.  Maybe someday I’ll get to travel where Mississippi Kites are common. :)

Mississippi Kite
Mississippi Kite