Thursday, May 19, 2005

Kites and Kingbirds

Over the past couple of weeks I've sighted two recent Spring arrivals to north central Florida's bird population: the Mississippi Kite and the Eastern Kingbird. Both of these birds winter in South America. My my, what a journey.

I've observed the kites winging over pastures bordered by woodlands near Evinston, Florida, presumably in search of dragonflies, which the kites take on the wing. Great descriptions, data, and photos of Mississippi kites can be found at the following sites: The Peregrine Fund; The Hawk Conservancy Trust; and the Florida Breeding Bird Atlas. A pair of Mississippi kites have nested for the past couple of seasons at the Micanopy home of my fiddler friend and fellow antique corkscrew collector Tom S.

Eastern Kingbirds that I've observed have replaced the visiting Fall/Winter Eastern Phoebes common to fence wires, powerlines, and outer branches of pasture trees. The latter birds, with their distinctive phee-bee calls have migrated north for the Summer. Kingbirds don't mess around - they nest within a couple of weeks of their arrival, and they'll challenge just about any hawk, crow or jay that dares invade their nesting territory. This pugnacity is apropos of their scientific name: Tyrannus tyrannus. I've yet to see the infrequently observed orange crown patch/stripe of this species. Both kingbirds and phoebes are classified among the tyrant flycatchers.

The eastern phoebe was, incidentally, probably the first bird species to be banded. In 1840 none other than Audubon himself tied a silver wire to the legs of some nestling phoebes and observed one of his marked birds nesting in the same vicinity a year later, proving that birds migrate and return to the place of their birth to nest as adults.

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