Welcome back to check mark January! As a recap, this month has brought with us 9 new birds and an additional sub-species. Haven’t been this productive at the beginning of the year since I ran Project Chekov back in January 2014. 26 consecutive bird posts featuring at least one bird named with that day’s consecutive letter (link here). Now that was a chore, figuring out at least one bird for each letter and then hunting pictures down. The letter Q was quite the challenge and had to bend the rules just a bit to cover the letter U (thank god for zoos on that one). Not going to make it to 26 this month, but I can get us to 10!
Having just recently featured another bird of prey, thought it was fitting to bring you an additional cool feathered killer. This sinister looking bird is a White-Tailed Kite. Some birds shots are obtained by canvasing particular areas in hopes of spotting something interesting from the vehicle (some like my brother Ron would consider this the absolutely best method for winter birding). Other finds come from getting your shoes dirty, braving briar and defending against the mosquito horde just to get a glimpse of a rare lost bird. Both methods produce the same check in the book, but clearly one has a better experience than the other aka – blogger gold hehehe. Interesting enough, this sighting didn’t bring with it that much effort.
Hit the jump to learn more about this Kite!
Nope! The addition of this Kite was embarrassingly easy. We had pulled into our camping spot at Galveston Island State Park back in December 2016. Once hooked up, Linda took the dogs up to the bathrooms for a quick exercise. Having driven almost the entire way there, I opted to give the legs a bit of a stretch as well (that there would be what writers would refer to as a secret seed to know if their wives are reading their work – if Linda doesn’t call foul on that exaggeration I know she isn’t keeping up to date hehehehe). A few steps down the road, I looked up and say this Kite hanging out on a wire a few hundred feet away.
That particular Kite wasn’t too social. It stayed there awhile scanning the field below it until it spotted me taking shots of it. About that same time, it took a glance over at our dogs. Pretty sure there was a quick weight to lift calculation. Maybe Raven, but the other two were out of his league – plus it would have to get through mother who would protect her babies to the bitter end. Without surprise it quickly dismissed the thought and opted to find more private hunting grounds. The next day, we spotted likely the same White-Tailed flying overhead.
It was overcast, which cost me the coloring in the eye. I was able get some shots showing their distinctive black patch at the carpal joint – fancy birder description for wrist. Just a beautiful bird to experience. On a cursory look you might think it hails from the Gull family as it soars over the hunting fields. On closer inspection that formidable bill corrects that false assessment. The Kite is also a lot nimbler in the air with the ability to brake and hover almost Harrier like over their potential victim.
Thought I would add this perspective to help distinguish it from another member in the Kite family – the Swallow-Tailed Kite. The White-Tailed (as you can clearly see here) does not have the deep notch present on the Swallow-Tailed variety (always helps when the distinguishing feature in the field is evident directly in the name). I had the pleasure of experiencing the Swallow-Tailed thanks to one that obviously had its compass on the fritz and ended up down the road from us in Champaign, IL (link here). Note, that Swallow-Tail sighting is still in my top ten birding experiences – big thanks to Ron for urging me to get my butt down there. Don’t get me wrong, this White-Tailed sighting was also pretty exciting.
Always like to give as many viewpoints as I can when introducing a new bird to the blog. Although not the best quality shot, this next one gives a decent view of the black shoulder patches.
Turns out, we had a number of opportunities to see this bird. On our visit to Laguna Atascosa, we came across one hanging out in a tree – unfortunately, it was quite a distance away so the pictures suffered from the required crop. Honestly surprised these came out at all. The entire bird fit inside my focus area. The good news is it provides the final viewing angle. You really couldn’t see the back feathering in the other shots.
Basically carries that same grey feathering down the back. From a color palette perspective, the light grey to the dark gray to the black and then back to the white again bathes it in perfect harmony. Those red eyes (when the sun is cooperating) provide that menacing pop that surely strikes fear in the hearts of small mammals, their preferred food. They will take incidental insects, where the Swallow-Tailed specimen Ron and I observed in Champaign would feast on dragonflies in midflight.
Keeping with tradition, opted to check to see what interesting facts Cornell had to share. Sorry folks, but uber-weak. Basically they tend to roost with other Kites in the nonbreeding seasons and they don’t know if they migrate or not. I did learn that their act of hovering directly over a prey and then diving directly down on it is referred to as kiting – guessing the Harriers would take offense to that name.
That’s all for tonight folks – hopefully you enjoyed learning about the newest addition to my birding list – considered it a white Kite coming to my emotional rescue!