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.

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.

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.

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

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