While driving back from St. Pete, I came across this pair of Swallow-Tailed Kites soaring between large oak trees. [gallery] It’s hard to describe their graceful maneuvers as they searched for their insect prey. They looked more like butterflies than birds! Just as I was leaving two small birds (Cardinals?) finally got fed up and mobbed the larger birds to make them leave.
Short clip, but I got the pair flying together between the trees. <smile>
You may see these birds from spring to fall all over the State of Florida. It’s hard to miss them if you know what to look for! I frequently see them along I-75 anywhere the trees come up to the road. I’ve also seen them soaring over shopping malls in suburban areas?! Unlike other predatory birds (such as Red-Shouldered Hawks), which sit on a perch and suddenly pounce on their prey—these Kites glide over and between large trees. Unlike other soaring birds (such as Turkey Vultures), they fly near the ground where they are easy to see. Online references place their numbers at 2000-4000. This species adorns birding trail signs throughout the state.
Here is what I wrote in 2009 about the Ultimate Bird…
Every Spring I look forward to the return of Swallow-Tailed Kites (Elanoides forficatus) from their South American sojourn. I’ve seen two so far this year. In the US this bird is almost unique to Florida, where it comes to breed. I can still remember the first time I saw one driving along a rural highway—I looked up and “Wow!” I was hooked. After giving it some thought I’ve concluded that in addition to the striking forked tail and elegance in the air, the white on black plumage creates a dazzle camouflage effect. The smaller white bird on a dark background looks dove-like or even angelic in the morning light. Always a remarkable sight!