I’m really surprised that this isn’t making more of a blogospheric buzz: Not one, not two, but three Mississippi Kites are currently in New Hampshire, and two of them are attempting to nest – the first recorded occasion, apparently, that this species has nested north of
the Carolinas Virginia, although strays go by northeastern hawkwatches with some regularity. This elegant raptor is one that I’ve always wanted to see – I had high hopes of it on my Florida trip this spring, actually, although they were ultimately dashed.
There are a number of interesting things about all this, besides the fact that it’s happening at all. The Lab of O’s website indicates that Kites from the Great Plains often nest in urban areas, while southeastern Kites are mainly forest nesters – this family is nesting in a large maple in someone’s yard near a high school, and apparently has shown very little inclination to be disrupted by dogwalkers, lawnmowers, and even gaggles of flabbergasted and delighted birders. Of course there’s the question of the family structure; this is one of the species in which sub-adults are known to serve as nest helpers, so if and when the young hatch it will be interesting to see if the odd bird out, apparently a young female, takes on this role. Did she follow the pair on their eccentric migratory route – is she perhaps one of their young from last year – or was she already off-course when she found them and joined up out of desperation? Are these three responsible for the spate of Mississippi Kite sightings in various NYC parks that occurred in mid/late May of this year?
And, of course, will they succeed? Do they mean anything for the future? Vagrant nesters, as everyone from Jack Connor to Nate at the Drinking Bird will remind us, live lives fraught with Darwinian peril (but then again, don’t we all?) Still, with three birds there already, success this year might be the start of a colony, and selfishly I have to approve of this if it means more Kites inclined to migrate over Prospect Park.