Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
An Update on Nesting Mississippi Kites
October 07, 2022
by Steve Grinley
Mississippi Kites nest in the southern states and are considered a rare bird in Massachusetts or anywhere in New England. So it was big news when a pair was discovered nesting just over the border in New Hampshire back in 2008. Since that time, the number of kites has grown and active birders track their nesting attempts in New Hampshire. Steve Mirick of Bradford, MA has recorded the kites whereabouts and posted the following update:
“Once again, Mississippi Kites seem to have had a difficult year nesting in New Hampshire in 2022. Like last year, only a single nest was found and only a single chick was confirmed to fledge. This despite the fact that at least 4 pairs of kites were confirmed on territory with possibly 5 pairs. The Kites were first made famous by nesting in 2008 and this is (at least) the 15th consecutive year that kites (between 1 and 4 pairs) have nested in New Hampshire in this isolated, rare, nesting colony. A summary of the 5 Kite territories was as follows:
“DURHAM – Kites in Durham have been somewhat regular in recent years, but last year the nest failed, and it appears that this year’s nest may have failed also. Two Kites were observed soaring together over the UNH campus on June 6, but subsequent reports were lacking. Finally, a pair was reported roosting several nights in a row from a back yard not far from recent nest sites in early July. This culminated in COPULATION on the late date of July 6. This (to me) suggests a nest failure. By early July, Kites are typically nearing hatch date, and shouldn’t be copulating and roosting like this without a nest. And the date is too late for a new nesting attempt to be successful. Scattered reports of single birds were widespread in Durham later in summer, but nothing to suggest a new nest site.
“NEWMARKET – Once again, the Kites of Newmarket have been a big mystery.
Who the heck knows what’s going on? Up to two birds were seen in mid to late May, but there were ZERO reports from June through July despite a fair amount of searching. The next report from Newmarket was two birds circling on August 5 and two birds perched on August 14. Two birds perched together for “several hours” on August 16 suggests that they did not raise any young since they should be feeding young at this date. Last report of year of single bird on August 15.
“STRATHAM #1 – This territory was first noted in 2017 and last year’s nest successfully fledged the only chick for the year. The pair returned, but the nest tree (a black cherry) had been cut down!!!! There were numerous sightings of birds at or near this territory (two together on June 6 and June 8 and three together on June 23) but no regular sightings in any given area. Sightings continued from nearby locations, but it became unclear if these were from the Stratham #1 birds or the Greenland birds or both. No nest found and I’m not optimistic.
“STRATHAM #2 – This is a brand new territory and is the bright star for New Hampshire’s Kites during 2022. On June 4, a Kite was seen at a new territory (far from the other territory in Stratham). This resulted in a few additional sightings including a pair, but then nothing for over a month. I was extremely happy to find the new nest on July 29 high up in a white pine tree. This nest got a very late start and the chick was probably only a week old or less at this time. In addition to the two adults, a 3rd adult was seen on several occasions; however, it is not clear that it helped feed the young bird or not. The chick did very well and was fed cicadas, dragonflies, and even a monarch! It fledged on August 29 or August 30, which is very late. But it continued to be fed and was seen flying and attempting to catch food on September 10. The young bird was last seen flying nearby on September 11 and hopefully has a successful migration south.
“GREENLAND – This territory was first noted in 2020 when they raised a young. Last year’s nest was apparently abandoned. This year, kites returned again to the same area and rebuilt the nest and were seen copulating on June 6!! But then everything fell apart. One was seen on June 10, but NO OTHER SIGHTINGS from the immediate area of the nest were reported for the rest of the summer. This is the same as last year….rebuild nest, copulate, and then nothing! Frustrating. Sightings from nearby may be overlap with Stratham #1 territory and it isn’t clear whether any nest was ever built elsewhere.
“A summary of confirmed fledged Kites (and pairs of kites present) from
recent years in NH:
2017 – 0 (3 pairs)
2018 – 3 (3 pairs)
2019 – 2 (3 pairs)
2020 – 3 (3 pairs)
2021 – 1 (4 pairs)
2022 – 1 (4 or 5 pairs)
“Please note – In the future, I will be doing my best to keep the locations of these nests quiet and keep the location secret in Ebird posts, etc. The popularity of these birds for photographers is a messy situation with homeowners and neighbors. The kites don’t seem to care much, but the people do.”
The Mississippi Kites have been sporadically spotted migrating through Massachusetts, mostly in the spring, though I have never seen one here. Fall sightings are rare, but Jonathan Layman spotted one from Lot 3 on Plum Island on September 29. It is a bird to look for here and we can only hope that it may someday nest here as well.