The Swallow-tailed Kite Watch

A sketch of Swallow-tailed Kite

Sixty folks watched patiently for birds in the heat on the weekend of August 14-15, 1999 all along the Gulf Coast by participating in the first-ever Swallow-tailed Kite Watch! That's right, 60 folks volunteered their time in hopes of spotting migrating Swallow-tailed Kites. Twelve sites were on board that weekend from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. from Cameron Parish, Louisiana down the coast to two sites in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas; there's over 625 miles of coastline between those two end points. Two of the 12 sites included folks that were already counting migrating raptors for other long-term projects, but we'd like to include them just the same. This Watch! is just a small part of a two-year partnership of Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW), Texas Partners in Flight, Temple-Inland Forest, and the U.S. Forest Service. Huge thanks to Gael Simons of Austin who co-coordinated this weekend event and is compiling statewide sightings of this species for a second year now.

A total of eight Swallow-tailed Kites was seen at two of the participating sites-seven at the Smith Point Hawk Watch (HW) Tower on the Candy Abshire Wildlife Management Area and one at Brazos Bend State Park. The other 10 sites tallied only zeroes for the Swallow-tailed Kite. Interestingly, both sites that had Swallow-taileds were TPW properties, but the key is that they are located adjacent to major waterways that kites use as travel corridors. Breeding Swallow-taileds funnel out of the Pineywoods from mid-August through September navigating along such waterways, much like humans travel on highways.

Other highlight species seen at one or more of the participating sites were Magnificent Frigatebirds, Wood Storks, Anhingas, lots of swallows, 11 other species of raptors, both vultures and a lot more. The 'other' raptors were: Osprey, Peregrine Falcon, Northern Harrier, Mississippi Kite, White-tailed Kite, Swainson's, Red-tailed, Broad-winged, Red-shouldered, Harris's and Cooper's hawks. Obviously some of the above raptors were non-migrants. Not a single Sharp-shinned was reported.

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