Welcome to another edition of Marsh Musings. I have finally returned from my long hiatus away from the Marsh Musings, and I am finally settled into my new position. I am so grateful to all of you that have supported me throughout this new transition. In addition, I am looking forward to the new opportunities and adventures Doc and I will be able to share with all of you along the way.
As a kid, I loved kites. There is just something magical about flying a kite through the air and watching it dip and dive with the wind currents. I grew up in Illinois, but I can only imagine what it would have been like flying a kite in Kansas wind. I think I would have been afraid to fly away with it if I held on tight enough. Now don’t get me wrong, I still love kites. In fact, I even bought a new shark kite on vacation a couple of weeks ago. As I have grown older though, I now get a new excitement when someone tells me to look up at a kite. This excitement stems from a bird called the Mississippi kite.
What is a Mississippi kite you ask? In reality, you have probably seen a lot of them, especially if you live in an urban area with trees. Have you ever looked up, saw a bird on a power line and thought to yourself, “That is one giant pigeon!” At first glance, they appear to have pigeon qualities, with their gray coloration, darker gray tail feathers and outer wings and lighter gray on their heads and wings.
In reality though, kites are not pigeons at all! They are a small bird of prey and have amazing pointed wings that allow them to be elegantly graceful in the sky. They often appear to just float in the air. They are around 12-15 inches and weigh about 7-14 oz. and are most often found in wooded, urban areas, along with prairies, open woodlands, and riverine forests. Over the past century though, kites have undergone some changes in their nesting habitat use from forests to urban areas and shelterbelts, which is why they are so commonly seen in our backyards now.
While kites are a breathtaking bird, some people see them as a nuisance. For starters, they make a high-pitched squeak that sounds to me like a dog tearing apart a squeaky toy. I can never understand why someone hearing that for hours and hours in their backyard would find it annoying? In addition to their call, these birds are also very protective of their nests.
These birds have been known to dive down at whatever organisms threaten their nest, including humans, so do not get too close if you have a nest in your backyard. Then again, it is an interesting experience to have a bird of prey diving at your head. Dr. Witt and I have even had them dive at our car before while driving around to take pictures.
While these birds offer an exciting chance to see birds of prey up close and personal, all good things must come to an end, so look for the kites soon in a tree near you before they migrate as far south as Argentina. So what are you waiting for? Stop reading this article, grab your binoculars, jump out of the air conditioning for a couple of minutes, and enjoy one of the neatest birds in your backyard before it is too late. Until next time!
Eric Giesing and Dr. Dan Witt are nature enthusiasts and wildlife photographers.