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Overview

Distribution

Mississippi kites breed in Arizona and the southern Great Plains, east to the Carolinas and south to the Gulf Coast. They are found in the largest numbers in the central states of Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. Over the past ten years, the range of Mississippi kites has increased, and the species has been seen wandering as far north as New England in the spring and to the tropics in the winter. Mississippi kites migrate to the tropics or subtropical areas in South America, southern Florida or southern Texas for the winter.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); neotropical (Native )

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occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Breeding

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Global Range: (200,000 to >2,500,000 square km (about 80,000 to >1,000,000 square miles)) BREEDING: southern Arizona, central New Mexico, southeastern Colorado, north-central Kansas, southern Missouri, southern Illinois, southern Indiana, western Kentucky, western Tennessee, northwestern Mississippi, the coastal plain of the Gulf states, South Carolina and (probably) North Carolina south to southern New Mexico, Texas, the Gulf coast, and north-central Florida, the range expanding along its borders in recent years; formerly bred north to central Colorado and Iowa (AOU 1998). NON-BREEDING: apparently mostly in central South America, where recorded from Paraguay and northern Argentina; scattered sight reports suggest casual or occassional wintering north as far as southern Texas and Florida, but the vast majority lack documentation (AOU 1998). MIGRATES: regularly from Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, and Chiapas (casually west to Baja California) south through Middle America, Colombia, and Bolivia (AOU 1998). Casual straggler north to northern California, southern Nevada, northern Colorado, northern Wyoming, southern Saskatchewan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, southern Ontario, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and Nova Scotia; sight report for Maine (AOU 1998).

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Range

S US (Arizona to Florida); winters in South America.
  • Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2014. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.9. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/

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Physical Description

Morphology

Mississippi kites are small falcon-shaped birds of prey. Females are larger than males, ranging from 34.5 to 37 cm in total length and 270 to 388 g. Males range from 34 to 36 cm in length and weigh 214 to 304 g. The wingspan of adult Mississippi kites ranges from 75 to 83 cm (average 79 cm). They are grey and black in color, with a light grey head and underparts, and dark grey to black backs and upperwing coverts. In addition to being larger, females tend to have a darker head and shoulders than males. Mississippi kites have red eyes with a black area around the eyes and yellow to red legs. Their wings are narrow and pointed, and wing tips and tail are black. This coloration helps distinguish these kites from other raptors in flight.

Immature Mississippi kites look very different from adults. They have white or buff heads, necks and undersides heavily streaked with brown and black. Their upper body and wings are dull black with some light colored edging on the feathers. The tails of juvenile Mississippi kites have three thin white stripes on the underside. They retain this juvenile plumage until their second fall.

Adult Mississippi kites are occasionally mistaken for northern harriers, but they do not have the white rump or broad and pale body of northern harriers. Immature birds are sometimes confused with the young of broad-winged hawks and peregrine falcons.

Range mass: 214 to 388 g.

Range length: 34 to 37 cm.

Range wingspan: 75 to 83 cm.

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger; sexes colored or patterned differently

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

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Size

Length: 37 cm

Weight: 314 grams

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Diagnostic Description

No other raptor can be confused with the "adult" kite (Parker 1988). Juvenile birds are likely to be mistaken for young of other species (e.g., Broad-winged hawk (BUTEO PLATYPTERUS), peregrine falcon (FALCO PEREGRINUS)). Wing and tail shapes are key distinguishing features. In flight, the wings are pointed with the leading primary relatively short and from a distance can be confused with a peregrine falcon. The uniformly black tail readily distinguishes this raptor from any other. Very similar in appearance to the Plumbeous Kite (I. PLUMBEA); where ranges overlap, sight identification becomes difficult.

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Ecology

Habitat

In the central plains and southwest part of their breeding habitat, Mississippi kites live in mature bottomland forests with mixed hardwood trees. They prefer large tracts of forest near to open habitat such as pastures or agricultural fields. In the south-central Great Plains, Mississippi kites prefer woodlands and oak savannas mixed with prairie.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest

Other Habitat Features: suburban ; agricultural ; riparian

  • Parker, J. 1999. Mississippi kite (Ictinia mississippiensis). Pp. 1-28 in A Poole, F Gill, eds. The Birds of North America, Vol. 402. Philadelphia, PA: The Birds of North America, Inc.
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Habitat and Ecology

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Comments: BREEDING: Tall forest, open woodland, prairie, semiarid rangeland, shelterbelts, wooded areas bordering lakes and streams in more open regions, scrubby oaks and mesquite, and lowland/floodplain forests. Requires open areas near nesting sites for foraging. More specific breeding habitat components vary by region (Great Plains and Southeastern U.S.). Nests in fork or crotch of tree, high up where possible but sometimes low in scrubby trees (Harrison 1978). May sometimes nest in stands of mature trees in towns. Most nests placed in non-conifer near woodland edge. Often reuses old kite nest.

Historically, in the Great Plains was associated with areas having sizable riparian woodlands along major river systems. Kite numbers increased during the 1950's and 60's as the birds began using shelterbelts (tree plantings designed for windbreaks and to impede soil erosion) as nest sites (Johnsgard 1990, Meyer 1990, Bolen and Flores 1989, Parker and Ogden 1979). The increase of mesquite thickets, associated with cattle raising and farming, has also offered new nesting areas, as have farm woodlots and shade trees in towns. This increase in nesting habitat has created a more uniform regional distribution of nesting kites in the Great Plains (Parker 1988, Parker and Ogden 1979).

In contrast, nest site selection in the Southeast has not changed as a result of habitat alteration to the extent that it has in the Midwest (Parker 1988, Parker and Ogden 1979). Nests in the Southeast are most commonly found in mature, undisturbed stands of lowland and floodplain forests and along major rivers and feed over adjacent fields (Hamel et al. 1982, Hamel 1993, Parker 1988).

NON-BREEDING: Little is known of migration and wintering habits (Johnsgard 1990, Parker 1988, Glinski and Ohmart 1983, Parker and Ogden 1979). Because it prefers to forage over open and edge habitats, agricultural expansion and forest removal in Central and South America may increase foraging habitat and prey populations there, as has happened in North America (Parker 1988, Parker and Ogden 1979).

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Migration

Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

Arrives in southern U.S. late March or early to mid-April (on nesting areas in New Mexico by mid-May, Gennaro 1988); southward migration in U.S. mainly late August-September (see Palmer [1988] for additional details). Apparently entire population migrates through Middle America (no West Indies records) (Ridgely and Gwynne 1989). In Costa Rica, migrating flocks seen sporatically late March-early May and mid-September to mid-October (Stiles and Skutch 1989). Migrating groups of up to several hundred.

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Trophic Strategy

Mississippi kites are primarily insectivores. Their favorite foods are insects in the orders Orthoptera (grasshoppers) and Odonata (dragonflies). This species also eats small snakes, frogs, lizards, small birds, bats, and fish. Kites usually hunt within 400 meters of their nests, and can eat while flying. Mississippi kites sometimes follow large mammals and feed on insects that they flush.

Animal Foods: birds; mammals; amphibians; reptiles; fish; insects

Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates, Insectivore )

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Comments: Eats mainly large insects caught in flight (also small birds and in some areas, bats); also drops to ground on mice, insects, small reptiles, frogs. Also hawks from perch, obtaining prey from air or foliage. Largely dependent on large flying insects which are taken in the air, especially cicadas and grasshoppers; katydids and dragonflies (Parker 1988). They do sometimes resort to other foods, occasionally scavenging road-killed vertebrates and periodically killing small birds, reptiles and amphibians (Hamel et al. 1993, 1982).

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Associations

Mississippi kites impact the populations of the prey they eat, particularly grasshoppers and dragonflies.

Some Mississippi kites show a commensal relationship several other species. For example, Mississippi kite nests are often found with wasp nests near or on the kite nests. The wasps probably provide protection to kites against climbing predators. Several smaller bird species, including house sparrows, northern mockingbirds and blue jays often build nests on or near Mississippi kite nests.

Ecosystem Impact: creates habitat

Commensal/Parasitic Species:

  • wasps

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Mississippi kite eggs, chicks and adults are vulnerable to predation by raccoons and fox squirrels. Other known predators of eggs and chicks include great horned owls, hawks (family Accipitridae), ants, blue jays, American crows, common grackles, snakes (suborder Serpentes) and greater roadrunners.

Known Predators:

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Known predators

Ictinia mississippiensis is prey of:
Serpentes
Accipitridae
Corvidae
Sciuridae
Canidae
Procyon lotor

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Known prey organisms

Ictinia mississippiensis preys on:
Actinopterygii
Insecta
Amphibia
Reptilia
Aves
Mammalia

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Population Biology

Global Abundance

10,000 - 100,000 individuals

Comments: Considered locally uncommon to locally common throughout its range. Only one reference to estimated continental populations was found by Johnsgard (1990). He considered the 27,400 birds counted during migration along the Panama isthmus in 1981 to be the best estimate.

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General Ecology

Forages or perches alone and in small to large flocks (Parker 1988). Usually forages within 0.5 kilometers of nest; sometimes up to several kilometers.

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Mississippi kites communicate using two different whistle-like calls. One call has been described as a two syllable “phee phew” with the first note short and rising and the second longer and downwards. The other call has been described as "phee-ti-ti."

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Cyclicity

Comments: Some crepuscular activity.

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Life Expectancy

The oldest known wild Mississippi kite lived 11 years.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
11 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
134 months.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 11.2 years (wild)
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Reproduction

Mississippi kites are monogamous. They form pairs before arriving at the breeding grounds or soon after arriving. Courtship displays are rare. However, individuals have been observed guarding their mate from competitors.

Mating System: monogamous

Mississippi kites breed once per year between May and July. Most individuals begin breeding at age 2. Males and females form pairs before arriving at their breeding site around mid-May. Five to seven days after arriving, they begin to build a nest or refurbish an old nest. They prefer to have a high nest in the fork of a tree, 3 to 30 meters from the ground. When building their nest they sometimes choose a location surrounded with wasps and bees, which ward off botflies that attack their young. The flat, bulky nest is constructed of small twigs and sticks with a lining of Spanish moss.

The female lays 1 to 3 eggs (usually 2), and begins incubating as soon as the first egg is laid. Both parents incubate the eggs for 29 to 32 (usually 30) days. The newly hatched chicks are altricial, and are brooded nearly constantly by the parents for the first 4 days. Both parents bring food to the chicks for at least six weeks. The chicks begin to leave the nest at about 25 days old, and begin flying at 30 to 35 days old. Most juveniles become independent of their parents within 10 days of fledging.

Breeding interval: Mississippi kites breed once per year

Breeding season: Mississippi kites breed between May and July.

Range eggs per season: 1 to 3.

Range time to hatching: 29 to 32 days.

Average time to hatching: 30 days.

Range fledging age: 25 to 30 days.

Range time to independence: 35 to 40 days.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 to 2 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2 years.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 to 2 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 2 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; oviparous

Average eggs per season: 2.

Both parents incubate the eggs, and brood the chicks for the first few days after hatching. Both parents bring food to the chicks for at least six weeks. For the first week or so, parents regurgitate insects for the young chicks. After this initial period, the parents offer insect parts and parts of vertebrates to the chicks for a period of about 4 days, after which whole prey items are brought to the nest for the chicks.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female)

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Nest preparation begins in early to mid-May, but birds may build new or add to old nests during June and early July (Parker 1988). Single brooded, clutch size one to two (usually two, rarely three). Incubation 29-31 days (also reported as 32 days), by both sexes. Young tended by both parents, climb out of nest to adjacent branches at 15-18 days, can fly at 34 days, rely on adults for several weeks thereafter (Parker 1988, Brown and Amadon 1968). Studies in the Great Plains, Arizona, and Illinois found about 50% of nests fledged young (Palmer 1988). Yearlings may breed or help at nest. Often a gregarious nester. Productivity very high in some suburban settings (e.g., golf courses), which provide protection from predators (Glinski and Gennaro 1988, Gennaro 1988).

Nests are found in groups sometimes referred to as colonies. There are no home range data in literature (Kalla and Alsop 1983), however home range has recently been studied by the University of Missouri. Glinski and Ohmart (1983) state that territory size consisted of a space within 50 to 100 meters from an active nest. Parker (pers. comm.), however, questions this claim stating that he has never seen clear territorial behavior in these kites. Glinski and Ohmart (1983) also noted that nests within their study groups were spaced from 125 to 1,700 meters. Adult kites seldom fail to pair and attempt nesting (Glinski and Ohmart 1983, Parker 1988).

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Ictinia mississippiensis

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 3 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNAACTTGGTCAACCAGGCACACTCCTAGGTGATGACCAAATCTATAATGTAATCGTCACCGCACATGCCTTCGTAATAATCTTCTTCATAGTTATACCAATCATGATCGGAGGATTCGGAAACTGACTTGTCCCACTCATAATTGGCGCTCCTGACATAGCCTTTCCACGCATAAACAACATAAGCTTCTGACTGCTACCTCCTTCCTTCCTTCTCTTACTAGCCTCCTCAACAGTAGAAGCAGGAGCTGGCACCGGATGAACTGTTTACCCTCCACTAGCTGGCAACATAGCCCACGCCGGAGCCTCAGTTGACCTAGCCATCTTCTCCCTACACCTAGCCGGAGTTTCATCCATCCTCGGAGCAATTAACTTCATCACAACTGCCATCAACATAAAACCCCCAGCCCTTTCCCAATACCAAACACCCCTATTCGTATGATCCGTCCTCATTACCGCCGTCCTTCTATTACTTTCACTGCCAGTACTAGCCGCCGGCATCACTATATTACTTACAGACCGAAACCTCAACACAACATTCTTCGACCCTGCCGGCGGGGGCNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN
-- end --

Download FASTA File

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Ictinia mississippiensis

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 3
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

Mississippi kites are not federally threatened or endangered. In fact, their overall numbers are stable or increasing. However, they are still threatened in some states by habitat destruction or disturbance.

Mississippi kites are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and CITES Appendix II.

US Migratory Bird Act: protected

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: appendix ii

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
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National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5B - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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Population

Population Trend
Increasing
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Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable (=10% change)

Comments: See Glinski and Gennaro (1988) for a discussion of recent increase and status in southwestern U.S. BBS data from 1980-2000 indicate a non-significant annual population decline (-1.0%) throughout its range (Sauer et al. 2001). Parker and Ogden (1979) offer that there is no apparent reason why populations should not continue to increase in both the East and West. Suitable nesting habitat is available in both regions and nesting kites easily tolerate human disturbance. However, in areas where nesting habitat is very localized, disturbance may have drastic long-term impact in that entire region.

Global Long Term Trend: Relatively stable to decline of 50%

Comments: Although nest site selection in the Southeast has changed little in the past century, density and distribution of this kite has been affected by human activity. The early 1900's produced declines in densities in most areas of the Mississippi Valley and the southeastern states (Parker and Ogden 1979). Declines have been attributed to shooting, egg collecting, or habitat alteration. These attributes also occurred in the Great Plains; however, the West was less impacted because of smaller human populations. See Palmer (1988) for a review of historical and present status.

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Threats

Degree of Threat: Low

Comments: Most raptor populations in North America have decreased in abundance since the last century as a result of persecution (e.g., shooting), habitat loss, and pesticides. Mississippi Kite, however, may benefit from habitat fragmentation. Love et al. (1985) noted that the mosaic distribution of land-use types may influence the use of windbreak forests in the south central plains of North America. The resulting vegetation patchiness may enhance foraging success and reproduction (Glinski and Ohmart 1983). Increase in local populations of the eastern breeding range became evident in the 1950s. Parker and Ogden (1979) suggested that logging in the East could have disrupted nesting, but has more likely had a positive effect by providing cultivated areas where foraging opportunities are improved for kites. Riparian habitats that historically were the primary support of the kite are disappearing at an alarming rate. Loss of riparian habitat in the Great Plains, for example, has had minimal effect due to the availability of alternate nest sites in shelterbelts and urban areas. Parker and Ogden (1979) note that removal of large numbers of shelterbelts would disturb kite nesting groups. The loss of lowland and floodplain forests in the Southeast, however, could limit the population. It remains unclear if kites will begin using upland and second growth habitat or urban sites in sufficient numbers to increase or maintain present populations (Meyer 1990). Impacts of forest clearing in South America are unknown but may be beneficial. Eggshell thinning caused by chlorinated hydrocarbons was not found to be a significant factor contributing to population declines (Parker 1976). Pesticides, however, can be a threat as noted in Oklahoma where several birds died after ingesting insects sprayed with parathion (Franson 1994). Parker (1988) reports the following as being confirmed and probable nest predators: fox squirrel (SCIURUS NIGER), raccoon (PROCYON LOTOR), bobcat (FELIS RUFUS), American Crow (CORVUS BRACHYRHYNCHOS), Swainson's Hawk (BUTEO SWAINSONI), and Great Horned Owl (BUBO VIRGINIANUS). Several species of snakes and a number of other birds and mammals probably take kite eggs and/or nestlings (Parker 1988). Persecution continues to be a possible threat especially for aggressive birds in urban area. Increased public education should eliminate this threat.

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Management

Preserve Selection and Design Considerations: Kalla and Alsop (1983) found that kites in Tennessee did not nest in small woodlands, even though suitable foraging habitat and active nest sites were near. Parker and Ogden (1979) found in the Midwest, narrow riparian woodlands and small stands of trees in urban surroundings were suitable nest sites in the Midwest. These findings, along with the historic habitat change, suggest the need to manage lands while considering regional differences in habitat preference. Southeastern areas should consider continuous riparian forests, while Great Plains areas should consider riparian and other woodlands within open habitats. Love et al. (1985) suggest that landscapes with mosaic distribution may influence use of shelterbelts by nesting kites. The inherent edge effect created by shelterbelts provide both nesting and foraging habitats.

Management Requirements: Information currently available suggests that management requirements vary by region. Great Plains areas should focus management on forested areas (e.g., shelterbelts, towns) that meet the needs of this kite. Glinski and Ohmart (1983) suggest that heterogeneous communities may offer better foraging habitat than homogeneous areas such as crop monocultures. They suggest that the increased habitat diversity in the Great Plains is a likely contributor to population increases and expanded ranges. Eastern regions should focus on management of mature lowland or floodplain forests, especially areas with tall, mature trees (Meyer 1990, Kalla and Alsop 1983).

Parker (pers. comm.) believes that western populations will not need any management attention;. He states that eastern areas should protect old-growth bottomland forests and/or attempt to establish populations in second growth woodlands (similar to western populations). Parker also notes that in areas of Southwestern semi-desert, where kites have not begun to use urban areas (e.g., Arizona), emphasis should be placed on maintaining riparian nesting habitat.

Management for specific tree species is not considered an important factor. Specific tree selection is believed to be a function of availability and abundance rather than preference (Johnsgard 1990).

Human and vehicular traffic does not dissuade kites from nesting in urban sites (Bolen and Flores 1990). Managing for aggressive birds in urban situations must be considered. Human attacks by diving birds near nest sites have occurred often enough to produce negative public responses (Bolen and Flores 1990, Meyer 1990, Gennaro 1988, Parker and Ogden 1979). Public education should be the primary method of intervention. Parker (1980) offers specific education ideas: 1) avoiding nests during incubation and through fledging (mid-June through mid-August); 2) wear a hat near nests, especially a tall-crowned hat, because kites always appear to aim at the highest point; 3) wave something in front of the kite when it is diving, making it pull out of its dive sooner; 4) directly facing the kite also intimidates it during a dive.

In severe situations diving birds cannot be accepted or tolerated by local citizens. In these cases nests could be destroyed and nestlings could be donated to foster parent kites elsewhere (this practice is illegal without a special permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service). Parker (1988) found that when this method was used, diving ceased, no kites were destroyed, and the offending pair were discouraged from renesting as though a natural predator had intervened (Parker 1988). Placement of life-sized kite models in natural or artificial nests prior to arrival of kites in spring was effective in diverting kites from selected areas (Gennaro 1988). Gennaro (1988) also found that removing eggs from nests of aggressive kites only shows initial success. Nesting pairs were found to renest and continue to display the aggressive behavior.

Management Research Needs: Given that large numbers of towns have become nesting areas for this kite, management practices should consider the aggressive nature of this bird during late nesting seasons. Methods of compromise between nesting kites and public relations must be better addressed (Meyer 1990, Gennaro 1988, Parker 1986). More specific management needs could be determined from further life history studies.

Biological Research Needs: Previous research (Parker 1986, 1988, Glinski and Ohmart 1983, Kalla and Alsop 1983) has focused on local populations (primarily in the Great Plains) or given historic reviews. Additional research on migration patterns and techniques for monitoring kite populations in the Southeast is needed to better understand habitat requirements and regional density changes (Meyer 1990, Glinski and Ohmart 1983, Parker 1980). The effects of group size and site fidelity on nesting productivity in the Southeast would illuminate specific management needs (Meyer 1990). Research on home range is also needed (Kalla and Alsop 1983).

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Adult Mississippi kites become very aggressive when their nests contain young. They may defend their nest from perceived threats, including humans, by diving at them. As a result, they are seen as unwelcome guests in many places.

Negative Impacts: injures humans

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Mississippi kites help to control populations of insects that are agricultural pests.

Positive Impacts: controls pest population

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Risks

Stewardship Overview: Through the past century, raptor densities have been decreasing due to persecution (e.g., shooting), habitat loss, and pesticides. However, since the 1950's and 60's, the Mississippi Kite has demonstrated increased population size and distribution. This species seeks forested habitats with open foraging areas and has demonstrated the ability to adapt successfully to habitat changes. In order to maintain or increase its distribution and size, an understanding of its historic and current habitat requirements for breeding, migrating and wintering ranges is needed. Three major management needs are identified: 1) increased efforts to determine impacts from habitat change and disturbance, especially in migration and winter ranges; 2) improved techniques for assessing and monitoring populations; and 3) improved techniques for maintaining and increasing populations in the Southeast and peripheral areas (Tennessee, Illinois, North Carolina, Arizona).

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Wikipedia

Mississippi kite

The Mississippi kite (Ictinia mississippiensis) is a small bird of prey in the family Accipitridae. Mississippi kites have narrow, pointed wings and are graceful in flight, often appearing to float in the air. It is not uncommon to see several circling in the same area.

Description[edit]

[2] Adults are gray with darker gray on their tail feathers and outer wings and lighter gray on their heads and inner wings. Males and females look alike, but the males are slightly paler on the head and neck. Young kites have banded tails and streaked bodies.[3] It is 12 to 15 inches (30–37 cm) beak to tail and has a wingspan averaging 3 feet (91 cm). Weight is from 214 to 388 grams (7.6-13.7 oz).


Diet[edit]

Their diet consists mostly of insects which they capture in flight. They eat cicada, grasshoppers, and other crop-damaging insects, making them economically important. They have also been known to eat small vertebrates, including amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and occasionally birds. Their call is a high-pitched squeak, sounding similar to that of a squeaky dog toy.

Breeding[edit]

Mississippi kites breed across the central and southern United States. Breeding territory has expanded in recent years and Mississippi kites have been regularly recorded in the southern New England states and a pair has successfully raised young as far north as Newmarket, New Hampshire.[4] They migrate to southern subtropical South America in the winter. Mississippi kites usually lay two white eggs (rarely one or three) in twig nests that rest in a variety of deciduous trees. In the past 75 years, they have undergone changes in nesting habitat from use of forest and savanna to include shelterbelts and are now very common nesters in urban area that are highly populated in the western south-central states.

Mississippi kites nest in colonies and both parents (paired up before arriving at the nesting site) incubate the eggs and care for the young.[5] They have one clutch a year which takes 30 to 32 days to hatch. The young birds leave the nest another 30 to 35 days after hatching. Only about half of kites successfully raise their young. Clutches fall victim to storms and predators such as raccoons and great horned owls. Because of the reduced amount of predators in urban areas, Mississippi kites produce more offspring in urban areas than rural areas. They have an average lifespan of 8 years.[5]

Conservation[edit]

While the Mississippi kite is not an endangered species,[1] it is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918,[6] which protects the birds, their eggs, and their nests (occupied or empty) from being moved or tampered with without the proper permits. This can make the bird somewhat of a nuisance when it chooses to roost in populated urban spots such as golf courses or schools. The birds protect their nests by diving at perceived threats, including humans. Staying at least 50 yards from nests is the best way to avoid conflict with the birds.[citation needed] If unavoidable, wearing a hat or waving hands in the air should prevent contact from being made but will not prevent the diving behavior.

In popular culture[edit]

"Mississippi Kite" is the title of a Kristin Hersh song released by CASH Music in August 2008; “You ... carve out insects to feed us all”.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2012). "Ictinia mississippiensis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Ictinia_mississippiensis.html
  3. ^ Udvardy, Miklos D. F.; John Farrand, Jr. (1994), National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds Western Region, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, pp. 349–350, ISBN 0-679-42851-8 
  4. ^ "Bird Unseen in N.H. Spotted in Newmarket", WMUR-TV, [http://www.wmur.com/family/16701323/detail.html
  5. ^ a b Andelt, William F. (1994), Mississippi Kites, Internet center for wildlife and damage management, handbook: E76 
  6. ^ Birds Protected Under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act 
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Considered conspecific with Icteria Plumbea by some authors (AOU 1983).

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