Swallow-Tailed Kites

I’m usually not one for photos of wildlife, preferring instead just watch the animal. But this was my third swallow-tailed kite in just a few days in Florida, and I felt sure that my family would not believe that this gorgeous dark blue and white bird soared fifteen feet over my head on a jog, before circling above the field of horse trailers. I felt that definitive proof was required.

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Mostly clouds, but also a swallow-tailed kite in central Florida, March 2016.

I alternated between furiously snapping with my iPhone and trying to zoom in on the kinetic acrobatic of a bird in the midst of a bird nerd adrenaline rush and just watching it slice down to the ground, swoop up, and generally fly like an expertly-handled artificial kite in between bouts of soaring.

I jogged back to share my victory, enthusing, “I saw a kite!” Everyone but my dad stared at me blankly, probably wondering if I had a really weird hobby that my parents kept secret. “It’s a really rare bird! Come look!” No response.

Back I went, to watch the graceful wheeling and marvel at the gorgeous plumage. But, in the intervening minutes, a horde of small songbirds (at least a few were swallows) were haranguing the kite into abandoning its current hunting ground.

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Swallow-tailed Kite being harassed by a smaller bird, central Florida, March 2016.

A week later, I paid my respects to a very different swallow-tailed kite, perched regally in the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Not as much of a fist-pumping encounter, as I am still abuzz with the excitement of seeing a kite in action. But for me, seeing this bird in the same museum that houses passenger pigeons and Labrador ducks motivates me to do more.

Kite_AMNH
Photo by author, March 2016, at American Museum of Natural History.
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