THE BLACK KITE Milvus migrans
Image courtesy of Harold Dobson
Here we see a Black Kite feeding on the wing.
Most recent UK and Irish reports of Black Kite
A good week for Black Kites saw several reported among the high numbers of Red Kites (70+) in west Cornwall early in the week. With three in the Land's End/St Buryan/Sennen area on 15th, four were subsequently reported from Polgigga on 16th and there were further reports over Penzance on 16th and Clodgy Point, St Ives, on 17th. One also remained on Scilly, last being seen over Bryher and St Martin's on 16th, and another over Skomer (Pembs) on 16th was later seen at Martin's Haven. Hampshire did well with birds over Winchester on 16th, Acres Down on 17th and Miles Hill on 18th; Kent produced birds over Bockhill on 18th and in-off at Little Farthlinghoe on 19th. Others were over Lakenheath (Suffolk) on 17th, Thursley Common (Surrey) on 18th, Jennycliff Bay (Devon) on 20th and Sheringham then Cromer (Norfolk) also on the latter date.
Two Black Kites were still on Tresco (Scilly) on 8th, with one still the following day; there were also reports from Kent on Nonington and Langdon Cliffs on 11th.
At least one Black Kite toured the Isles of Scilly from 4th (two were on Tresco on 5th), while there were also reports from Land's End and Nanquidno (both Cornwall) on 4th and 5th respectively, as well as presumably the same bird tracked between West Runton (Norfolk) and Carlton Marshes (Suffolk) on 4th.
The Black Kite on Orkney, first reported on 22nd, was again at Loch of Boardhouse on 23rd. Other reports concerned birds over Grafham Water (Cambs) on 26th and Wangford (Suffolk) on 29th.
A Black Kite over Scolt Head (Norfolk) on 9th was presumably that later reported in the Holme area on 9th-12th;
The Black Kite was also seen again in Kent, at Samphire Hoe on 12th-13th.
The same wandering Kentish Black Kite was reported over Samphire Hoe on 4th and Sandwich Bay on 6th.
The wandering Black Kite continued to do just that around south Kent throughout the week, being seen at Dungeness on 23rd and 26th and at New Romney and Lade in between.
The Black Kite also continued to tour the far south-east, being seen at Rye Harbour (E Sussex) on 14th-15th, again at Dungeness on 16th-17th, and then at Brookland on 17th and Hamstreet on 18th. If pinned down, given the time of year it would be interesting to see whether this appears to be a candidate for lineatus (Black-eared Kite).
A Black Kite flew over Dungeness (Kent) on 13th.
The only Black Kite of the week was one over the ARC Pit at Dungeness (Kent) on 10th.
A Black Kite over Christchurch Harbour (Dorset) on 27th was the only record this week.
Cornwall again produced a series of Black Kite records, with reports from Porthgwarra on 2nd, Nine Stones on 3rd and Carbis Bay on 4th suggesting that at least two individuals were roaming around. Another was reported near Portway (Herefordshire) on 3rd.
Cazalla (Cadiz) yesterday, 5th in a force 3/4 wind and in 4hours of counting 3073 black kites. The largest group of black kites was 778. Very few birds had passed prior to 1pm.The black kites were also having dificulty and spent some time up and down the coast before crossing. (the Straits of Gibraltar)
La Janda 31/7 65 black kites. The wind was force 6 easterly
A Black Kite flew over the Farne Islands (Northumberland) during the late morning of 30th and was closely followed by the islands' first Red Kite in the early afternoon! The Black later flew over nearby Bamburgh and was one of four reported this week: reports came from Barnby in the Willows and later Oxton (both Notts) on 27th, Cranford St. John (Northants) on 28th and near Cliffe (Kent) on 31st.
The West Cornwall Black Kite remained in the Sancreed/Drift Reservoir area to 13th, while another flew over Allendale (Northumberland) on 17th.High pressure was no doubt the reason for a mini-influx of Black Kites to the far southwest from 9th. Birds were seen at Sancreed (Cornwall) on 9th-10th and over Camelford and Lizard village on the former date; a further sighting came from St. Mary's (Scilly) on 10th.
A Black Kite was reported at Bernisdale, Skye on 21st.
Kent's co-operative Black Kite was still near Faversham on 15th, and a possible was seen from a moving car nearby on 17th; three further reports of flyovers emanated from Cambridgeshire.A rarity in itself is a lingering Black Kite, so a bird near Faversham (Kent) on 8th-12th was well twitched. Others were reported over RAF Waddington (Lincs) on 7th and Guyhirn (Cambs) on 12th.
Flyovers at Blacksod (Mayo) on 1st and Quanterness (Orkney) on 3rd were notable in addition to further reports from Walthamstow (London) and Ratcliffe on Soar (Notts).
Belated news of a Black Kite near Rothbury (Northumberland) on 29th was received during the week.
An overflying Black Kite was noted at Hauxley (Northumberland) on 27th.
A smattering of Black Kite records included the Northumberland bird still at West Hartford early on 16th, one over Abbotsbury then Bridport (Dorset) during the morning of 17th, and what was perhaps the same bird accounting for four Hampshire sightings from 17th-19th.
A Black Kite was as far north as Kirkwall (Orkney) on 9th and another roosted near West Hartford (Northumberland) on 14th-15th; others were noted in Powys, East Sussex and Kent.
Despite the upturn in falcon records, Black Kites were few and far between with reports from Burnham Overy (Norfolk) on 2nd and then not too far away at Holme on 4th, over the Dublin ring road on 5th and at Loch Duntelchaig (Highland) on 6th.
Black Kites were over Bramfield and Stowmarket (both Suffolk) on 11th and 13th respectively, with a probable reported over Grayrigg (Cumbria) on 14th.
The first report of this year: early Black Kite over Bough Beech Reservoir (Kent) on 4th March
The Black Kite
The Black Kite is more compact in shape than a Red Kite and is a duller, darker brown, lacking the red colours and the obvious white wing panels. Indeed, it is more likely to be mistaken for a female Marsh Harrier or a dark morph Booted Eagle but has more angular wings which it holds level or slightly drooping. Also, the tail of a kite always looks obviously pointed at its corners and the upperwing has distinctive pale panels across the coverts.
Summer visitor to wooded valleys, feeding on farmland, watersides and rubbish tips.
European birds winter south of the Sahara in tropical Africa. Western birds migrate mainly through Gibraltar, whilst eastern birds pass through the Bosporus in Turkey and Sinai in Egypt.
This information is taken from the BirdFile on the appropriate BirdGuides DVD-ROM. As well as video and sounds, our CD- and DVD-ROMs contain additional text on Voice, Sexing, Ageing, Food, Nests and Eggs and more.
The black kite, like its cousin, the Red Kite, like to decorate its nest, mostly with plastic rubbish.
BirdGuides rarity status: Scarce
Information courtesy of BirdGuides.com
Image courtesy of Mike Warburton
This is an even rarer Kite. A leucistic kite is mainly pure white and does not have the red, grey and black colouring of the common red kite. A "white" kite is not an "albino" kite and has blue eyes, rather than the pink eyes displayed by an "albino" kite.
Image courtesy of Mike Warburton
Craig Jones speaks of his experience in meeting this Leucistic Kite for the first time:
"I went to Gigrin for the very first time to photograph the beautiful Red Kites when this 'Leucistic' Kite turned up. It has started to visit the feeding station more and more after being born in 2003 and until recently hadn't been seen for some time.The weather was changing thoughout the day and here I captured him just lifting off almost like a RAF 'Heavy Bomber'."
Image courtesy of Tom Melton
Here, we see a Red Kite flying together with a White Kite.
Copyright Image courtesy of Nikon Kid Terry Cooper
For more information about the Leucistic Kite at Gigrin, go to http://www.gigrin.co.uk/white_redkite.html
MISSISSIPPI KITES in the USA
By Helen M Baines
Mississippi Kite - Ictinia mississippiensis
I'm a British expat, originally from Penrith, on the edge of the Lake District, but have lived in Texas for the last 20 years. My husband was an exploration geologist with an American oil company and we travelled fairly extensively, before moving to Houston. He is now retired and we are living in south central Texas, in the university town of College Station, 100 miles north of Houston.
Whenever I visit my family in the UK, I enjoy getting out into the countryside to add to my British bird list. Back in 1998, on a birding trip through Wales, I saw my first Red Kites at the Gigrin Farm Feeding Station, near Rhayadar in central Wales. I am so pleased to see the re-introduction programme going so well in the UK. Maybe I'll get to see some Red Kites in northern England on my next visit, but now I'd like to relate some of my experiences with a kite species found in the southern USA.
When we first moved from Indonesia to Houston, Texas, in 1992, I became very interested in bird watching. I'd always liked nature and wildlife, but when I realised that Texas had an amazing number of species on its bird list (about 600), I began to bird my neighbourhood and started keeping a list! The first birds to intrigue me were the Mississippi Kites that I would see soaring over our subdivision in the summer months. According to my field guide, they were not supposed to be in this part of Texas, but apparently their breeding range had been expanding over the last couple of decades and they can now be found from Texas, north into Oklahoma, east through Arkansas, Louisiana and the Gulf Coast states, to South Carolina, with several isolated breeding spots in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado.
Having watched the Mississippi Kites soaring over my own neighbourhood for several years, I was really pleased when I managed to get a good look at 2 juvenile kites in August 1997. After fledging, the young kites would perch in a dead tree on a neighbour's front lawn, just down my street. They would call for a few hours in the morning and evening, waiting for their parents to drop by and feed them with insects caught on the wing! The adult kites nested in the back garden of that house again the following year, but in 1999, they moved onto the edge of the golf course which backs on to our house, so I had a much better view of them. Over the next few years we had more nests built near our house, and in 2004 they built in an elm tree right across the street, about 15 yards from our front door, but unfortunately the view of the nest was obscured by foliage! One young kite fledged successfully and it would perch on a shady branch in an adjacent tree and call all day to be fed!
Our last experience with the kites in the Houston area, was in August 2009, when an unfortunate youngster fell out of its nest and broke its left wing. Our neighbour down the street found it in distress on the golf course behind his house and called us to see if we could help. We managed to rescue it and get it to a rehabilitation centre in Houston.
The kites are only resident in the USA from mid-April to mid-September, because they winter in central South America, from southern Brazil, through Paraguay, northern Argentina and into eastern Bolivia. When they migrate at the end of summer, they fly overland through Mexico, and then follow the land bridge through Central America. [See range map]. Unfortunately, very little is known about them while on their wintering grounds in South America.
The very first Mississippi Kite was discovered in 1806 by Peter Custis, a young naturalist who was on the Red River Expedition in the southern portion of the recently purchased Louisiana Territory, which consisted of 800,000 square miles of land, west of the Mississippi River.
Compared to your Red Kites (Milvus milvus) in the UK, Mississippi Kites are about half their size: 13-15 ins (34-37 cm) long, with a wingspan of about 36 ins (90 cm), whereas Red Kites are 24-26 ins (60-66 cm) long and have a wingspan of 69-70 ins (175-179 cm).
Mississippi Kites are a light to medium grey over the head, throat, nape, breast, abdomen, flanks and wing linings; the back and upper wing coverts are a darker grey; flight feathers are black, except for the secondaries, which are pale grey to almost white above. The tail is black, with a square tip. The beak is grey to black, the eyes are red and surrounded by a circle of black feathers.
Juveniles are quite different, with brown and white streaking on the breast and belly, and grey and white streaking on the head. The back and wings are black with brown or white edges to the feathers. There are 2 or 3 white bands on the tail. Young kites get their adult plumage at two years of age.
A good field mark for kites in flight, is to look at the wings for the short first primary feather.
The typical call is a two-syllable phee-phew, sometimes followed by phee-ti-ti-ti.
The kites nest in colonies in open woodland and riparian areas, building a stick nest, usually located 10-14 metres high in a variety of tree species. East of the Mississippi River most kites nest in mature bottomland forest, but west of the Mississippi River, as the range expanded, they began nesting in shelterbelt (windbreak) plantings and since the 1960s they have been nesting in urban parks, golf courses and greenbelts, which can sometimes cause problems when they dive at humans, in an attempt to defend their territory. They lay 2 eggs and usually manage to fledge 2 offspring each year.
The Kites most commonly feed on medium to large flying insects, mainly beetles, grasshoppers and dragonflies, which they catch with their feet in flight, often consuming them on the wing. They have also been recorded as taking a variety of reptiles, frogs, bats and sometimes small birds.
Since moving to College Station, I'm pleased to say that there are Mississippi Kites here, too. In April 2013 we found one in a city park and have heard that they are nesting there.
For more photos of the kites in the Houston area, and also a colony in Dallas, please go to my website where there are 3 pages devoted to Mississippi Kites: http://www.helensbirds.com/mkite.html
Further reading: The Mississippi Kite by Eric G. Bolen and Dan Flores. 1993. University of Texas Press, Austin. ISBN: 0292751486