Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis)

Photograph of the Mississippi Kite


The Mississippi kite is a beautiful, falcon-like bird whose body is an overall gray color and whose head is a lighter ashy gray. It has a completely black tail, deep red eyes, and yellow to red legs. In flight, this bird is smooth, graceful, and buoyant.
Life History
Mississippi kites are very social in all activities. They do not maintain territories and they congregate at roosts in late summer. They primarily are insect eaters, with a preference for grasshoppers, cicadas, dragonflies, and other insects that they will, at times, catch in flight and consume in midair. Kites have been known to fly about cattle and horsemen in order to catch insects that are stirred up from the grass. They sometimes will feed on small snakes, lizards, frogs and small birds.
Paired kites generally begin nesting soon after their arrival in their old nests or in newly constructed ones. In late May or early June, kites breed and both sexes will incubate usually two bluish-white eggs until they hatch 31 to 32 days later. Mississippi kites, at times, cause problems for unsuspecting individuals. Kites, like many other birds, will dive at animals and people that venture too closely to their nests. This diving behavior is simply an attempt to ward off potential threats to the nest and young. Once the young leave the nest some 30 to 34 days after hatching, kites will stop their protective behavior. Kites normally may live to seven years of age in the wild.
Tall trees near water in open woodlands, savannahs, and rangelands are preferred nesting sites. Mississippi kites have also been known to build nests in urban settings.
Mississippi kites are highly migratory. They winter in central South America, but may occur casually as far north as southern Texas. In the spring, they often migrate in groups of 20 to 30 to their nesting sites in Arizona, east to southeastern Colorado, southern Kansas, southern Missouri and the southeastern states. In Texas, their breeding range includes the northwestern third of Texas and North-Central Texas. It is also a very local nesting species in East Texas.