Identification: A relatively small bird of prey, 12-14 inches in length, with long, narrow wings, spanning 36 inches. Adults are overall gray with lighter heads and underparts, and blackish tails and wingtips. Immature birds are streaked below with banded tails. In flight, Mississippi Kites are often mistaken for large swallows, as they appear dark overall.
Range & Habitat: Mississippi Kites, preferring hammocks, mixed pine and hardwood forests, usually nest near water. This species is found in north Florida in moist areas. Birds found in Kansas, Iowa, Tennessee, South Carolina and the Gulf coast of Texas travel south to Florida April every year, arriving by April.
Reproduction: Early spring nesters, these kites will build stick nests in tall pine or hardwood trees 12-80 feet above the ground, usually near human habitation. A typical clutch consists of 2 or 3 white eggs and is incubated by both sexes for approximately 32 days. Both males and females feed the young birds who leave the nest approximately 34 days after hatching.
Diet: Although chiefly insectivorous, feeding largely on grasshoppers and dragonflies, Mississippi Kites occasionally take small snakes and frogs. These kites often eat while on the wing.
Remarks: This graceful, buoyant kite is a marvelous flier, spending hour upon hour aloft. It seldom circles in the typical soaring pattern of other raptors, but rather moves along in a more or less straight line, sometimes veering to one side. Mississippi Kites are quite gregarious, often seen in flocks and even nesting in loose colonies.