Five Mississippi Kites

Late in the morning on a warm, sunny day, five Mississippi Kites circled, soared and hunted over the trees and rooftops of a cul de sac in the neighborhood next to ours. This is a spot where I’ve often seen Mississippi Kites this summer, sometimes perched in the tall, leafy trees behind the houses, or flying from one tree to another, often circling overhead like this and climbing higher. But this is the first time I’ve seen as many as five at the same time here.

It’s always a joy to watch them in flight, and today they were spectacular. They stayed in view for more than fifteen minutes, hunting and capturing flying insects. Slender, sleek, dark-gray raptors with pointed wings and long, dark, fan-shaped tails that played the air with delicate finesse, they circled and climbed, turned abruptly, swerved and sailed. A round white head caught the sun now and then.

Most of the time, two of the kites soared fairly high, though they stayed in sight. The other three flew lower, in very large circular paths, sailing swiftly over the cul de sac and trees, turning sharply, climbing much higher and diving back down, flying in and out of sight behind trees very fast. 

All of a sudden, one of the kites came swooping just over the treetops, over a roof and down toward me – I heard a crunchy thwack, and saw a rapid flash of gray and white, a blur of wings and tail as it captured an insect right over the road where I stood, no more than a few yards away. It happened so fast the kite had swept back up with its prey and was high above me, circling again, before I could catch my breath. 

I stood and watched as long as the kites were still in view. Gradually they all rose higher and began to drift away toward the south and west, fading to tiny specks and then they were gone. I stood in a quiet street in a pretty neighborhood with no one else around, and felt as if I’d come back down to earth. 

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