One of my favorite birds to watch for in the summer here in Florida is the Swallow-Tailed Kite. They can be hard to get pictures of, since they’re pretty much only seen in flight, but recently I had the good fortune to grab a few shots right in my own backyard.
Those tiny little dots are a group of Swallow-Tailed Kites (Elanoides forficatus), more than I’ve ever seen at one time before. I usually see them in pairs, at most, so to see so many together was pretty exciting. I thought maybe it was a family group, but I can’t seem to find any information indicating that a family group would be this large (I counted at least eight total) or that they would stay together like this.
The scientific name Elanoides is a Latin-Greek hybrid meaning “resembling a kite”, while forficatus means “scissors” – referring to the forked tail. A Kite is a type of raptor with long wings and weak legs – they are almost always seen soaring in flight. They hunt and eat in flight as well; the Swallow-Tail Kite plucks its prey, including large insects and lizards, from the treetops as it flies. It drinks by skimming the surface of the water with its bill as it flies low over the surface.
Swallow-Tail Kites are seen during the summer in a limited range in the Southeast, including all of Florida. They reside in South America year-round, but when breeding season arrives, the spread out to the north to ensure everyone has enough food for their young. They nest in forested areas near water, and much of their range in the U.S. has been decimated by development (they were once found as far north as Oklahoma). If you spot Swallow-Tailed Kites, you can help track them by reporting your sighting to The Center For Birds of Prey - click here to learn more.
Do you spot Swallow-Tailed Kites in your area? Tell us where and when in the comments below!