Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Why Mississippi Kites Are Amazing!

It's been awhile since I've done an installation of "Why ___s Are Amazing", and I apologize for my tardiness.   Perhaps it's because most of the birds at the RMRP right now are American Kestrels, and I've already covered that species?  Whatever the reason, I decided to make it up to you by covering a bird that's really unique: Mississippi Kites.  Okay, so they're not actually that unique.  They're actually quite common birds--just not around here, which is what makes them "unique" to us.

So, the funny thing about this article is that I knew nothing about Mississippi Kites before writing it, so in order to find all the information I wanted to tell you, I (GHOW) interviewed a Mississippi Kite (MIKI) here at the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program.  This bird is currently healing an injured wing.  Here's what I got!

The interviewee
GHOW:  Thank you for joining me today.  How is your wing feeling?
MIKI:  Squeak-choooo!

GHOW:  Oh no, do you have a cold as well?
MIKI:  Squeak-chooo!!

GHOW:  Well, that's terrible luck, isn't it?
MIKI:  Squeak--no cold--chooooo!

GHOW:  What?! Oh! You're not sneezing, that's just how you talk!
MIKI:  Squeak--That's right!--choooo!

GHOW:  Okay, I'm getting the hang of it.  You know, that's funny, you sound just like a squeaky toy!
MIKI:  Har. Har. Har.  Like I've never heard that before. Squeak-choo!!
GHOW:  Right. I can see we started off on the wrong wing, so let's try again.  How is your injury?
MIKI: Better, thank you, but I still have a ways to go.  Squeak-choo!

GHOW:  Glad to hear it's improving.  So, where are you from?
MIKI:  Well, I'm from Mead, but I have a lot of relatives in Sterling and in Pueblo.  But most of my species live further east, in the Midwestern plains and down south.

GHOW:  I see, so that's why I've only met a handful of Kites?
MIKI:  Yep, that's right!  We're kind of new to the area.

GHOW: Well, welcome!  Glad to have you! It sounds like you're pretty social birds?
MIKI:  Absolutely!  We live in communal roosts, like Turkey Vultures.  So wherever you see one Mississippi Kite, you're likely to find more.  Squeak-chooo!

GHOW:  Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think I overhead another bird say that you only eat insects??
MIKI:  Squeak-chooo!!!!  That's mostly right.  I loooove grasshoppers and dragonflies, but the smaller bugs are good, too.  Occasionally I'll nab a small mouse, or maybe a lizard, but bugs are my meal of choice.

GHOW:  Blech, you can have them.  I'll take a tasty rabbit any day.  Of course, you might not be big enough to take down a rabbit.  How big are you?
MIKI:  Last time the Humans weighed me I was 250g, so about twice the size of a Kestrel.  However, some of us are a little smaller, and some are a bit bigger, about three times the size of a Kestrel.  But even though I'm bigger than a Kestrel, check out my feet:  they're pretty small, right?  So I don't think I'll be hunting rabbits anytime soon.

GHOW:   How do you hunt bugs, anyways?
MIKI:   On the wing, like a swallow, but instead of catching bugs in my mouth, I catch them with my feet, and that makes me a Raptor!  Squeak-chooo! 

GHOW:   Fascinating.  So tell me a little more about your lifestyle, like where you like to build your nest, and stuff like that.
MIKI:   We build our nests in trees, so we always live near woodland.  Out here in the plains we try to find a little riparian forest to call home--after all, water is important for the bugs we hunt.  We make our nests out of twigs, and I must say, they're pretty good by Raptor standards.  The lady-Kites usually lay two eggs per year, and the young are out of the nest nice a quick: one month in the egg, one month in the nest, then fledged and gone.

GHOW:   Do you make a migration?
MIKI:   Yes, most of our populations do. We fly to tropical South America in the winter!

GHOW:  By the way, I just wanted to comment on how beautiful your eyes are.  Most Raptors have dark eyes, or yellow eyes, but yours are bright red!
MIKI:   Cool, huh?  The immature Mississippi Kites don't have red eyes--they're brown.  In fact, immature Kites are streak-brown all over, with none of this striking grey-and-black motif of the adults.

Immature MIKI  (
GHOW:   This has all been very educational for me--especially learning a new language!  I only have one more question for you:  what makes Mississippi Kites awesome?
MIKI:   I can't name just one thing!  How about three?  1) Our aerial acrobatics when we're catching bugs on the wing,  2) Our appearance (a lot of Humans think we look a bit like Owls, and most Humans don't even recognize us as Raptors), and 3) Our unique call!  Squeak-choo!! 

Well, folks, there you have it!  Now you know a little bit about Mississippi Kites.   Until next time, squeak-choo! 

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