Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Kites Expanding in New Hampshire
September 01, 2018
By Steve Grinley

     Kites are falcon-like hawks that soar on flat, pointed wings, often buoyantly hanging up in the wind – hence, their name. Mississippi kites have historically nested in the south central part of the United States, as well as in the deep South to the Georgia coast. So it was quite remarkable when a pair of Mississippi Kites were found nesting in Newmarket, New Hampshire back in 2008. The excitement of nesting Mississippi kites in New Hampshire reached the media and birders from all over New England, and beyond, traveled to see these birds.

     The kites successfully raised offspring that year and have returned every year since. Their New Hampshire population grew and this year, two additional nest sites were discovered – one in Durham and one in Stratham. Steve Mirick of Bradford, Massachusetts provided an update on the Mississippi kites that I thought I would share with you today:

     “There are still kites in NH, but I suspect they will departing for South America within a few weeks. This year saw the first confirmed nesting attempts outside of Newmarket since the Kites were first confirmed nesting in New Hampshire in 2008.

     “As far as I know, there were a total of 3 active pairs of kites reported in New Hampshire this year. Not many “extra” birds were noted, but a wandering adult in Langdon (!) on 6/8 was extraordinary and a 1st summer bird was also reported early in the spring in Newmarket. This means that there were at least 8 individual adult or sub-adult birds reported this spring/summer in NH. Aside from Langdon, all of the sightings were near the 3 nesting territories of Newmarket, Durham, and Stratham in southeastern NH.

     “DURHAM – This territory was first noted in 2017, but there was little follow-up and no nest was confirmed; however, it is likely that there was at least a nest attempt in 2017. This year, the nest was first discovered on July 24 high in white pine tree in back yard at 71 Madbury Road in Durham. Thanks to the VERY NICE property owners, the nest was visited by hordes of birders over the last month and was even shown on television!!

     “The baby was first reported “branching” at least as early as August 10th. As of at least August 26 (16 days after leaving nest), the baby was doing well and still being fed by the parents. I visited yesterday, 8/29 (19 days after leaving nest), but only conclusively saw the adult male, and didn’t stay too long to search for juvenile or female. I may have seen the juvenile high in flight, but not certain.

     “NEWMARKET – This is likely a new nest territory. Following last year’s DISASTER on Huckin’s Drive, this may be the surviving female with a new mate. This year, the nest was first discovered on August 1st, high in an oak tree in a front yard within a residential neighborhood. Location kept secret.

     “This baby is the youngest of the three and was first noted “branching” with weak flight on August 19. I visited yesterday, 8/29 (10 days after leaving nest) and located the baby two houses down (at least 100 yards) from nest site. Still being fed, and both parents were seen.

     “STRATHAM – This territory was first note in 2017, but I couldn’t find the nest. I believe they attempted last year (copulation observed), but no confirmed nests were found. This year, the nest was first discovered on August 1st, high in an oak tree in the front yard within a residential neighborhood. Location kept secret.

     “The young bird was first noted “branching” with short flights on August 12, and the “baby” was even seen flying back to the nest and begging to be fed on August 26 (14 days after leaving nest). I visited again yesterday August 29 (17 days after leaving nest) and saw the juvenile making long sustained flights and chasing flying insects, but also still being fed and remaining generally within a few hundred yards of the nest site. Both adults still were seen.

     “So, it appears we have had a great year for the kites in NH with 3 nests and 3 fledged young. One from each nest. The only other kites nesting in New England (that I know of) are in Connecticut where there are reportedly one or two nest territories.”

     These Mississippi kites were life birds for Margo and me when we saw them ten years ago. We were able to bring our young friend Sam to Newmarket in 2015 so he could see his first one. Hopefully, their population will continue to expand so that more New Englanders can enjoy these amazing birds!

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
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