Thursday, September 22, 2011

Kites still pushing through

Swallow-tailed Kite
As noted before, the Veracruz River of Raptors has already logged more Mississippi Kites this season than in any other year. Even Swallow-tailed Kites are still in the mix, although those must be the ultimate ones. Their migration is the earliest of all, and was already well underway when this count started in August.

a healthy-looking immature Mississippi Kite
Yesterday, we saw a bird that at first had us scratching our heads, wondering even which bird family it belonged to. Eventually it was termed the "zombie kite". The bird was all-dark, blackish, about the size of a Mississippi Kite, with long, thin wings tapering to a point, and a dark tail also tapering to a point, more or less like a booby tail. From a distance, the head seemed very small.

As it got a little closer (but still too far for identifiable photos), we noted heavily abraded flight feathers and a mostly bald head. We figured it was a Mississippi Kite that apparently had been in a fire, and was blackened and burned, but somehow still alive. Many of these late straggling kites that we get these days look scruffy, but this bird was obviously at a whole different level. It held its wings down as it soared on lift it was getting from rising warm air, and never once flapped for all the time we saw it. It seemed disoriented too, for first it flew west toward the mountains, to return a little later eastward to the coast. All other migrants here fly southeast.

We've been getting decent Osprey flights recently, and the Peregrine Falcon flight has picked up, but we still haven't had any big days. This is odd, given the date. I suspect that very soon we will be getting large Broad-winged Hawk flights, but apparently we still have a few kites we need to get out of the way first.

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