Monday, May 14, 2012

Mississippi Kites return

 Photo: Melissa Krygier

They're back! The now famous Mississippi Kites that have taken up summer residence in recent years in the Hide-A-Way Hills (henceforth HAH) of Ohio's Hocking County are back on their turf. I've received updates over the past week or so from Elizabeth vanBalen Delphia and Melissa Krygier, and Melissa sent along these fantastic images.

In the above image, the male kite is passing some sort of large insect to the female. This, apparently, is how boy kites charm girl kites. I can make out long knobbed antennae on the hapless insect gift and wonder if it might be an owl-fly. Mississippi Kites consume tremendous numbers of flying insects, which they deftly pluck from the air. Later, when the annual cicadas emerge, they'll harvest scores of these massive insects. Cicadas form the bulk of the diet for the young kites.

Mississippi Kites were first documented as nesting in Ohio in 2007 elsewhere in Hocking County. The HAH birds were first detected in 2010, but likely had nested there prior to this, based on anecdotal reports. There have been other kite reports in the area, and in nearby Athens county, and it appears that a small and possibly expanding Mississippi Kite population has become established in the Hocking River watershed.

Photo: Melissa Krygier

If Ms. Kite is suitably impressed by her suitor's gift, this is the reward. Melissa observed this bit of confirming breeding evidence very near to where the kites successfully nested the past two years. If all goes well, they should have a pair of kitelets by sometime in July or thereabouts.

HAH is a gated community, and unfortunately off limits to nonresident visitors. But through the efforts of Elizabeth and Melissa, we have managed a day of visitation for interested birders, which has become known as "Kite Day". CLICK HERE for a piece about last year's Kite Day. The Ohio Ornithological Society stepped in and played a big role in helping with 2011 Kite Day, and hopefully will do the same this year.

We'll watch and wait, and hope for another successful nesting of the HAH Mississippi Kites. And look forward to another Kite Day later this summer, when the kitelets are out of the nest and being stuffed with cicadas by their parents. It's quite a show.

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