Saturday, July 14, 2012

Swallow-tailed Kite

In my last post about raptors' eating dragonflies, I was thinking of Swallow-tailed Kites. I photographed this kite near Mitchell, South Dakota, in September 2007. Dragonflies swarmed through the air around the kite. Unfortunately I had not yet embarked on my odonate-watching career, but, in retrospect, the dragonflies may have been darners.
Swallow-tailed Kites also capture a variety of other prey items (insects, frogs, birds, lizards, snakes, bats, fruit, and even small fish) (Meyer 1995). Small but conspicuous populations of this raptor breed in far southeastern United States. This kite also occurs from southern Mexico through central South America. North American birds winter in Central and South America. Historically Swallow-tailed Kites were noted up the Mississippi Valley north into Minnesota, where a few recent sightings of vagrants have been reported. To the best of my knowledge, the species had not been seen in South Dakota since 1878. The causes for this decline are unexplained and, despite the occasional vagrant, reasons for the species' not reestablishing its former range also remain unknown.

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