Swallow-tailed Kite: The Video!

By Derek Stoner, Conservation Project Coordinator

Magical. Breathtaking. Incredible. Amazing. Effortless.

All are barely-adequate adjectives used by observers attempting to describe the flight of the Swallow-tailed Kite that traced graceful lines through the sky at Middle Run Natural Area last weekend.

The flight of the kite on Saturday evening is seared in the memories of those who witnessed it first-hand. Dramatic powerful glides skimming the tops of the pine trees, then a quick fold of the wings and a twisting downward dive in pursuit of a dragonfly. Rising back up, the kite would circle back and dive again. On the successful attempts, the kite would emerge clutching a Green Darner dragonfly in his small yellow talons, and proceed to tear the insect to pieces with his sharp beak. Dinner on the wing, and then back for seconds. And an extra helping of dragonfly for dessert!

Talons to beak, the Swallow-tailed kite polishes off another dragonfly morsel. Image by Derek Stoner.

There are currently 15 total records ( with 11 officially accepted so far) of Swallow-tailed Kites occurring in the State of Delaware according to Frank Rohrbacher of the Delaware Bird Records Committtee, so this bird is still quite a rarity. In almost all cases, these kites are seen flying over in the spring, gliding on by and sending folks scrambling for their cameras. For a Swallow-tailed Kite to stay in one place for two days and be the subject for literally thousands of photos is a testament to the uniqueness of this occurrence.

The Swallow-tailed Kite is admired by all who witness its flight. Image by Derek Stoner.

With a wingspan of four feet and weighing an average of 15 ounces (yes, barely one pound!) the kite is a flying machine par excellence. Kites rarely flap their wings, instead using their incredibly long tail to guide their body throgh the air currents as their wings take them for a ride.

Enjoy watching the video– if you missed seeing the kite, you can at least experience its flight through the wonders of technology!

1 thought on “Swallow-tailed Kite: The Video!”

  1. I ran across you video while looking for an I.D. on a swallow for an on line birding thread that I’m in.

    Your video is really great!! Nice job.

    We’re in southern Georgia (Thomasville) and we see both Mississippi and Swallow-tailed kites fairly often in the summer, the Mississippi Kites being seen more often.

    About 5 years ago, I got to watch about 20 Swallowtailed Kites feeding on June Beetles in a hay field for more than an hour!! It was amazing. This was about 10 miles from home.

    Thanks for sharing your video.


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