Mississippi Kites are some of my favorite birds. The uniform slate gray coloration and sleek form of the adult reminds me of a jet fighter plane. Their acrobatic flying skills hone the analogy.

Mississippi Kites are birds of prey, but they hunt mostly insects. On several occasions I witnessed a kite dive out of the sky and skim over the grass in order to nab a hapless grasshopper or dragonfly. With prey in hand (talon) the kites could often be seen feeding while on the wing.

I took these pictures earlier in the summer when I was in far southeast Dallas County to photograph a rare Swallow-tailed Kite. Reportedly, the swallowtail was coming out around midmorning and flying with kettles of Mississippi Kites. And, as it turned out, that was the case.

The Mississippi Kites were to be the indicator that I was in the right place for the swallowtail, but I was unprepared for the sheer number of kites I would encounter on that morning.

At any given time the sky was full of up to 4 or 5 kettles of Mississippi Kites each containing a dozen or more birds. Adults and recently fledged juveniles were present. The sky was swarming with them.

A high flying juvenile kite.
A high flying juvenile kite.

Mississippi Kite - Kettles

Mississippi Kite - Kettles

That's the Swallow-tailed Kite in the top right.
That’s the Swallow-tailed Kite in the top right.

Mississippi Kite - Kettles

Mississippi Kite - Kettles

Vocalizing.
Vocalizing.
This kite has what appears to be a dragonfly in its talons.
This kite has what appears to be a dragonfly in its talons.
Dozens of kites were in the air at any given time.
Dozens of kites were in the air at any given time.

Mississippi Kite - Kettles

A sleek adult Mississippi Kite.
A sleek adult Mississippi Kite.

Mississippi Kite - Kettles

Mississippi Kite - Kettles

Mississippi Kite - Kettles

Climbing skyward!
Climbing skyward!

Mississippi Kite - Kettles

Mississippi Kite - Kettles

Observation Details

County Dallas Dallas County - Bilindsay Road
City Unincorporated
Date Aug 23, 2013
Time of Day Noon
Temperature Hot (greater than 89°F/32°C)
Weather Partly Cloudy
Habitat Agricultural-Pasture
Type of Behavior Flying
Gender Mixed
Maturity Mixed
Observer Chris Jackson
Main Article Mississippi Kite Observation Location

4 Replies to “Mississippi Kite – Kettles”

  1. Chris, like you, I find Kites to be fascinating. I understand that the large kettles that occur in late summer are groups of migrating birds. Here (central Oklahoma) the Mississippi Kites are gone by mid-September.

    1. David,

      This situation was reliably observable for several weeks on both sides of my visit. I’m not sure what the current status is, but I suspect the kites have moved on just as you suggest. Much of this activity must have been staging and prep for the juvenile birds who made up a large percentage of each of the kettles I observed. Practicing the skills the young kites would need on their migration I imagine.

      -Chris

  2. Yesterday I saw several Mississippi Kites soaring togther in northern Arkansas. One would do corkscrews, 2 or 3 revolutions. I had not seen that behavior before. Have you? My theory for the purpose is the sheer joy of it, or just becasue it could!

    Steve

    1. I haven’t witnessed the specific behavior you are referring to, but I have observed many kettles of these birds. There does appear to be a lot of maneuvering simply for the joy of it. I like your theory!

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