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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Under and over the moon

I stepped out of the house around sunset and heard a loud, rasping call.  

I looked up to see this:

A White-tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus) was protesting being attacked by American Crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos).

I was excited to see a kite because I had seen ~10 kites about a week ago and it looked like they were en route to a roost site.  I had looked for them again, without any luck.

Tonight was different.  I watched at least 15 individuals (it was hard to keep track) fly into a roost site.  Several were perched in a high tree nearby:

And then I could see individual kites gliding in from various locations.  Sunset was ~7:15 p.m., so the light was dim, but there was a beautiful crescent moon near the roost site:

White-tailed Kites roost communally.  According to the Birds of North America account:
  • As many as 100 kites have been recorded at one roost site, but more often there are 10-40. 
  • The kites approach the roost site individually, within ~1 hour of sunset. 
  • The roost sites are sensitive to human disturbance. 
  • Interestingly, there are a lot of "unknowns" about roost sites it is not known if the same roost sites are used repeatedly, how the roost sites are selected, or what function they serve.

One White-tailed Kite is beautiful enough, never mind dozens coming into roost!

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