[CT Birds] kite trivia

Chris Elphick elphick at sbcglobal.net
Thu Aug 5 09:43:31 EDT 2010

I wanted to second Roy's endorsement of the Birder's Handbook and also mention that Kenn Kaufman has a book that provides species by species summaries of the natural history of North American birds.  Both are great resources.

The ultimate (exhaustive, and at times exhausting) source for such information is the Birds of North America monograph series.  The paper form takes up several feet of shelf space, but it is now on-line (by subscription) and many of the accounts have been revised since their original publication.  Under diet, the BNA account says:

"Well studied. Early works ... reported a varied diet including small mammals, birds, lizards, and 
insects. .... In all, over 12,500 prey items identified (all from 
pellets); 1,635 from Chile, 10,959 from California. Of 12 studies of 
food habits, small mammals comprised > 95% of prey items in all cases.... Small mammal prey generally fall within 20 to 70 g range. .... Prey other than small mammals are taken only incidentally and probably 
should not be considered “normal” prey ...."
Someone also mentioned the name change from a few years ago.  If you are interested, this came about when the American birds were split from those found in Australia and from Europe to Asia (now called black-shouldered and black-winged kites respectively).
Incidentally, there are two subspecies of white-tailed kite, one from South America.  I don't know if they're field identifiable, nor how migratory the southern birds are, but given the propensity of things like fork-tailed flycatchers to turn up in the northern summer, it would be worth tracking down the details ... just to make sure.  (I know that Frank carefully checked to make sure it wasn't a European bird on the day it was found, so maybe this has already been considered.)

Chris Elphick

Storrs, CT

elphick at sbcglobal.net

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