Thursday, January 30, 2014

Hook-billed Kites: an adult female light morph seen today

Today I returned to the Mission hike & bike trail area to look for the Hook-billed Kites again. I met Benton Basham there and a little later Bill Clark (raptor expert and book co-author)also showed up to took for the kites. I spotted a Hook-billed Kite fly in and land in a tree a couple of hundred feet away from us.  After it perched for a few minutes it flew off.  A little later Bill Clark spotted a second bird.
This adult female light morph Hook-billed Kite flew in good light providing these good views.   The rufous hindneck collar can be easily seen in the bottom photo. SeEtta

Map toMission hike & bike trail where Hook-billed Kites have been seen

This map shows how to get to the Mission Nature Park parking lot to access the hike & bike trail where the Hook-billed Kites have most often been seen. The elevated dirt hike & bike trail on top of the dike is just south of the paved trail that starts in the parking lot for the Mission Nature Park. It provides good views from an elevated location. The shorter line adjacent to the hike & bike trail (best to enlarge map for best viewing)shows the area of the hike & bike trail where most sightings have occurred. SeEtta

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hook-billed Kite: beautiful adult black morph series of flight shots

This black morph (referred to as dark morph by Wheeler) shows a blackish head, upperparts, and underparts including undertail coverts that are field marks for this color morph. [notice the bird is going over a power line in two photos and under a power line in next photo--the bird was going through a multiple lines]

This bird also has a white iris that is found on adult birds of this species.

Determining gender is a little more difficult. In Raptors of Western North America Wheeler notes that male dark morph's have 'uniformly black' remiges on the underside of the wings. He notes that females may also have 'uniformly black' undersides of remiges but may also " or more primaries have large, irregular white spotting." (p. 79)

Though on a couple of these photos there are possible whitish areas on the undersides of it's remiges, but these could just be just photo irregularities (due to lighting, missing feathers, etc).

Wheeler in Raptors of Western North America states that the tail of an adult male dark morph bird has, "One broad all-white band on the mid-section of both dorsal and ventral surfaces." (p. 79) Wheeler states that females also have a broad white mid-tail band plus a ". . . second narrow white band on the very basal region may show on the ventral side if the tail is widely fanned when soaring." (p. 79)

I think this may be a female because there is some white showing on the ventral side of the base of this bird's tail in the 2nd and 4th photos on this page when photos enlarged.   SeEtta

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Hook-billed Kite: adult female light morph

This is a adult female light morph Hook-billed Kite that I observed and photographed yesterday near the Mission bike trail as it flew back across with 2 other Hook-billed Kites during the 3rd fly by. Most outstanding is her much heavier banding than the adult male I posted below.

Wheeler in his Raptors of Western North America describes the head of adult female light morphs as follows: "Gray forehead with a gray area above and under the eyes." (p.78)--these features can be seen in the first photo. He also says they have a black cap and this can also be discerned in that first photo.

Wheeler says the upperwings are 'dark grayish brown'. He further states, "Whitish underside of all remiges are distinctly barred with dark brown and have a wide dark ban on the trailing edge." (p.78) Those features are seen quite well in several of these photos.

The females wide grayish tail band in mid-sectio can be seen on the upperside of her tail best in the 6th photo. And I think that this photo also shows the 'narrower basal gray band' as described by Wheeler. ([.79)

I have some photos of the other Hook-billed Kites I photographed yesterday and will post them later. SeEtta

Hook-billed Kite: adult male light morph perched in a distant tree

Not the best photo of a Hook-billed Kite but the best I could get with it perched about 250 feet away with branches in the way. SeEtta

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