Swallow-tailed Kite at Middle Run!

By Derek Stoner, Conservation Project Coordinator

What an unmistakeable profile the Swallow-tailed Kite cuts against the wide open sky! Image by Derek Stoner

“You are not going to believe this!”  The call came in from an excited Angel Burns, who described a bird she had seen while hiking with her daughter at Middle Run Natural Area this afternoon.   Two-year old Shay pointed out the unusual bird, and mother and daughter enjoyed a special audience with this spectacular bird for fifteen minutes as it soared effortlessly above their heads.

“You are  not going to believe this, but I think it is a Swallow-tailed Kite!”   I did not doubt her observation one bit, as the Swallow-tailed is simply known as the “Flying Fieldmark.”  That incredible shape, with long wings and a long forked tail, is unmistakeable.  The stark black and white pattern makes it evern more uniquely beautiful.

I quickly posted this incredible report to the Delaware Birds email alert, and immediately zipped down to Middle Run to see if I could re-locate this amazing bird.

Eating on the wing, a Swallow-tailed Kite devours a dragonfly freshly plucked from the pine trees. Image by Derek Stoner.

It goes without saying that a bird like this stands out, and in short order the kite was spotted in the distance.  It then looped overhead and descended back into Middle Run’s hayfields along Possum Park Road.

For over two hours, the kite soared back and forth over a grove of White Pine trees, diving dramatically into the trees and coming back up with dragonflies that it snagged with its tiny talons.  A crowd of thrilled birders gathered, savoring the sight of this fantastic rarity.

In late April into May, Swallow-tailed Kites often “over-shoot” their southern breeding grounds and wander north.  Carried by strong south winds and gliding, well, like a kite, these birds can travel tremendous distances in a short time.  just this past week in New Jersey, at least three different Swallow-tailed Kites made the bird hotline news. 

There is much more to this fascinating story of the Swallow-tailed at Middle Run.  A good bit of video showing the acrobatic flight of the kite will surely be shared soon.  Stay tuned for more on the kite report!

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