Beak of the Week – Mississippi Kite

Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis)

Family: Accipitridae

Mississippi Kites arrive in spring from their winter homes deep in South America. A medium-sized hawk, the Mississippi Kite has long, narrow, pointed wings and a long black tail. The back is dark gray while the breast and belly are almost white. The head is pearly gray with a black mask surrounding red eyes. Adult male and female plumages look similar; juveniles are brown with heavy streaking on the breast. 

An acrobatic flier, this kite glides, circles, and swoops as it pursues and feeds on airborne insects such as cicadas, dragonflies, katydids, beetles and grasshoppers. They typically hunt on the wing, capture their prey with their talons and consume prey while flying. While large insects make up the majority of their diet, Mississippi Kites will angle agilely and quickly to the ground to catch frogs, toads, lizards, snakes, and small birds.

The call of the Mississippi Kite is a high-pitched, piercing, two-syllable whistle that sounds like pheee-phew. Look and listen for these graceful, long-winged raptors along woodland edges, in fields, parks and golf courses.

Greg Lavaty
Greg Lavaty
Anthony Rathbun

Our Beak of the Week is one of 12 birds featured in Confluence, a public art installation along the Bayou Greenway trail at the confluence of White Oak and Buffalo Bayous. The 223-foot mural, created by artist Jane Kim, founder of Ink Dwell Studio, showcases the birds that call Houston’s bayous home. Confluence is commissioned by Houston Parks Board and hosted in collaboration with Buffalo Bayou Partnership. Houston Audubon is pleased to provide ornithological expertise and collaborate on programming and promotion of the mural. Learn more about Confluence here. 

 Visit our Bird Gallery to read about other Texas birds! 

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