Our Beautiful World

Kites, Milvinae  

Mississippi Kite, Ictinia mississippiensis

Whistling Kite, Haliastur sphenurus
Photo: Athena Ferreira

Kites are raptors with long wings and weak legs that spend most of the time soaring. Most feed mainly on carrion but
some take various amounts of live prey. (Carrion refers to the carcass of a dead animal)

They are birds of prey which, along with hawks and eagles, are from the family Accipitridae.

Brahminy Kite Braminglente Haliastur indus
Whistling Kite Plystreglente Haliastur sphenurus
Black-breasted Buzzard Kongeglente Hamirostra melanosternon
Double-toothed Kite Tannglente Harpagus bidentatus
Rufous-thighed Kite Rustlegglente Harpagus diodon

Slender-billed Kite


Helicolestes hamatus

Mississippi Kite Mississippiglente

Ictinia mississippiensis

Plumbeous Kite Blyglente Ictinia plumbea
Square-tailed Kite Langvingeglente Lophoictinia isura
Square-tailed Kite Langvingeglente Lophoictinia isura
Black Kite
Svartglente Milvus migrans
   Black-eared Kite Milvus migrans lineatus
   Yellow-billed Kite Milvus migrans aegyptius
Red Kite Glente Milvus milvus
Snail Kite Snegleglente Rostrhamus sociabilis

Juvenile Mississippi Kite, southwest Oklahoma

The Mississippi Kite, Ictinia mississippiensis, is a small bird of prey in the family Accipitridae. It is 30–37 cm beak to tail
and has a wingspan averaging 91 cm. Weight is from 214 to 388 grams. Adults are gray with darker gray on their tail feathers
and outer wings and lighter gray on their heads and inner wings. Males and females look alike, but the males are slightly paler on
the head and neck. Young kites have banded tails and streaked bodies. Mississippi Kites have narrow, pointed wings and are
graceful in flight, often appearing to float in the air. It is not uncommon to see several circling in the same area. Their diet consists
mostly of insects which they capture in flight. They eat cicada, grasshoppers, and other crop-damaging insects, making them
economically important. They have also been known to eat small vertebrates, including amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and
occasionally birds. Their call is a high-pitched squeak, sounding similar to that of a squeaky dog toy.

Mississippi Kite, southwest Oklahoma

Mississippi Kites breed across the central and southern United States. Breeding territory has expanded in recent years and
Mississippi Kites have been regularly recorded in the southern New England states and a pair has successfully raised young as
far north as New Hampshire. They migrate to southern subtropical South America in the winter. Mississippi Kites usually lay two
white eggs (rarely one or three) in twig nests that rest in a variety of deciduous trees. In the past 75 years, they have undergone
changes in nesting habitat from use of forest and savanna to include shelterbelts and are now very common nesters in urban
areas of all sizes in the western south-central states.

Mississippi kites nest in colonies and both parents (paired up before arriving at the nesting site) incubate the eggs and care for the
young. They have one clutch a year which takes 30 to 32 days to hatch. The young birds leave the nest another 30 to 35 days
after hatching. Only about half of kites successfully raise their young. Clutches fall victim to storms and predators such as raccoons
and Great Horned Owls. Because of the reduced amount of predators in urban areas, Mississippi Kites produce more offspring
in urban areas than rural areas. They have an average lifespan of 8 years.



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