Monday, January 27, 2014

Hook-billed Kite-my life bird and one of 5 today in Mission,TX


After spending 2 hours with more than 20 other birders this morning watching for Hook-billed Kites, that have been reported for several days flying in the area of the Mission, TX bike trails (Nature Park area) I returned in mid-afternoon to give it another try. I didn't see anyone else there when I arrived but quickly spotted 2 Hooked-billed Kites flying low coming in my direction. I heard some chattering vocalizations during that first flight as they had been flushed according to a couple from New York that had seen them further east of me.

One of the Hawks landed in a tree in the mesquite forest about 250 feet away. I watched it for a full 5 minutes (per photo time stamping) where I got a very nice view through my spotting scope of his face including the "yellow teardrop over the eyes" (as described by Brian Wheeler in Raptors of W. North America).

After both of those kites had flown off I stayed put and was delighted to watch between 1-3 birds fly by (all but one time they close to where I was standing) an additional 4 times. In total there were 5 birds.

Benton Basham (" In 1983 Benton Basham became the first person to break the 700 species barrier in a calendar year.") arrived and joined me for those additional great views and the couple from New York joined Ben and I for the last 2 times we watched them fly by. During one flight one of the kites flew directly over the 4 of us at less than 50 feet. On the last flight one of the kites put on quite a show by soaring and gliding not just just above the mesquite tree tops but higher above in the air as it circled a number of times as it flew off to the north.

This is an adult male light morph Hook-billed Kite showing the following field marks in these photos: iris is white (adult field mark); large and hooked bill; "yellow teardrop over the eyes"; underparts are white and grey barred; grey head;"yellowish patch under nares" (Raptors of W. North American, p78)[click on photos to enlarge to see this]; one broad white tail band easily seen and the second can be partially seen though covered a great deal by the undertail coverts. Photos of other Hook-billed Kites will be uploaded tomorrow. SeEtta