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Mississippi Kite

Order: Falconiformes - Vultures, hawks, eagles, kites, falcons
Family: Accipitridae - Kites, eagles, and hawks

Scientific Name:  Ictinia mississippiensis


Mississippi kiteDescription: The Mississippi kite is a falcon-like bird that measures about 14” long.  The body is an overall gray color with the head being a lighter gray.  Wings show little or no angle at wrist when flying.  The tail is black, and square tipped or slightly notched, except when fully spread.  From below, wings are smokey gray, darker at the tips and trailing edges. Eyes are deep red, and legs are yellow to red.





RangeHome Range:  After wintering in South America, Mississippi kites migrates in groups of 20 to 30 to their nesting sights on the southern great plains from Kansas to Texas.


Habitat Type:  Nest in groups of tall trees such as hedgerows and windbreaks next to open country, or low in mesquite oaks in Texas and Oklahoma.  An increasing number of birds are nesting in town parks, residential areas and golf courses.


Reproduction:  Nest building, incubation and care of the young are shared by both sexes.  Kites may return to their old nest or build a new one.  Nest materials are taken from live trees in the form of coarse and finer twigs with fresh leaves for the lining.  Breeding takes place in late May or early June.  1-3 white to bluish-white eggs are incubated for 29-32 days.  They fledge in August.


Diet in Wild:  Kites prefer to catch their prey on the fly and are primarily insect eaters with a preference for grasshoppers, cicadas, and dragonflies.  Sometimes they will feed on small snakes, lizards, frogs, small birds, and an occasional road-kill box turtle.


Diet in Zoo:  AAA Brand meat and occasionally crickets.


General Info:  Kites get their name from the smooth, graceful, and buoyant  way that they fly.  They have the ability to hang motionless and to drift back and forth as if suspended by a string.  They have been known to fly about cattle and horsemen in order to catch insects that are stirred up.  Like many other birds, kites may dive at animals and people that get close to their nests.  This behavior is an attempt to ward off danger to the nest and young.  Once the young leave the nest, in about 30-34 days after hatching, they will stop this protective behavior.  The Mississippi kite has a voice that is a thin, 2 syllable whistle.


Conservation Status



Birds in Kansas. Vol. I.  1989.  Max C. Thompson and Charles Ely.  University  Press of Kansas.  Lawrence, Kansas.  131-132 pp.

A Guide to Field Identification Birds of North America.  1983.  Chandler S. Robbons, Bertel Brunn, and Herbert S. Zim.  Western Publishing Company, Inc.  Racine, Wisconsin.  68 pp.

The Audubon Society Master Guide to Birding.  Vol. I. 1983.  John Farrand, Jr. and Alfred A. Knopf,  New  York.  222-223 pp.

Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia.  Vol. 7.  Birds 1.  Dr. Dr. h. C. Bernhard Grzimek.  Van Nostrand Reinhold Co.  New York.  354-357 pp.

Texas Parks and Wildlife.  Wildlife Facts Sheet.  (1996).  Mississippi Kite.
 URL:  http/www.tpwd.state.tx.us/tpwd.htm

Handbook of the Birds of the World   Vol 2 (1994).  Lynx Edicions.  Barcelona.  117pp.