Saturday, August 10, 2013

“Phee Phew”

“Phee Phew” is the call of the Mississippi Kite. 

This small kite is grey in color with distinct red eyes and a long black tail.  Their diet consists of large flying insects that are caught while the bird is on the wing.  For about the last 25 years the Mississippi Kite has been sighted in St. Louis during summer months.  They will raise their young in pockets of St. Louis city and county.   
One of two young Mississippi Kites currently in our hospital's exercise mews
With this being my third summer working at WBS’s rehabilitation hospital I have slowly noticed trends where certain species breed in the surrounding St. Louis area. 

We recently received a 3 week old Mississippi Kite that had fallen from a nest about 50 feet off the ground.  Luckily for the little one the land owner brought it to our wildlife hospital.  It was found after an examination that the kite has no injuries.  I got to thinking about the St. Louis area and the relationship with the Mississippi kite.  After doing some homework I have discovered that Coniferous, or pine forest edges, grassland edges, and urban areas are the preferred breeding habitat for this kite species.
This youngster was ready to take on the big bad photographer
Often times this species is misidentified as the Peregrine Falcon--although the Peregrine Falcon is over three times heavier.  The global population of Mississippi Kites is estimated to be as large as 100,000 individuals with no signs of decline.  Oftentimes multiple Mississippi kites will be seen flying and riding thermals, or the warm air rising from the ground.  The name for a group of kites has many terms, including a “string”, “kettle”, and “brood” of kites.

In mid-September the adults will start migrating to as far south as Argentina and the juveniles are soon to follow. But, before you know it they are back in the beginning of May.  This is the time of the year when we will most likely receive adult Mississippi kites at the wildlife hospital. 

In the case of the baby received over the weekend, hopefully with a few weeks of exercise at the WBS wildlife hospital and plenty of food the kites will be returned back to the wild before the migration begins.

Submitted by Adam Triska, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

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