Avian And Attributes – Pearl

Pearl Kite (Gampsonyx swainsonii) by Robert Scanlon

Pearl Kite (Gampsonyx swainsonii) by Robert Scanlon

“And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.” (Revelation 21:21-22 KJV)


Avian and Attributes – Pearl

PEARL, n. perl.
1. A white, hard, smooth, shining body, usually roundish, found in a testaceous fish of the oyster kind. The pearl-shell is called matrix perlarum, mother of pearl, and the pearl is found only in the softer part of the animal. It is found in the Persian seas and in many parts of the ocean which washes the shores of Arabia and the continent and isles of Asia, and is taken by divers. Pearls are of different sizes and colors; the larger ones approach to the figure of a pear; some have been found more than an inch in length. They are valued according to their size, their roundness, and their luster or purity, which appears in a silvery brightness.
2. Poetically, something round and clear, as a drop of water or dew.
3. A white speck of film growing on the eye.
PEARL,v.t. perl. To set or adorn with pearls.
PEARL, v.i. perl. To resemble pearls.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45-46 KJV)


Pearl Kite (Gampsonyx swainsonii) by Ian

Pearl Kite

The Pearl Kite (Gampsonyx swainsonii) is a very small raptor found in open savanna habitat adjacent to deciduous woodland. It is the only member of the genus Gampsonyx. The scientific name commemorates the English naturalist William Swainson.

The type specimen was collected from Brazil by English naturalist William Swainson, and described by Nicholas Aylward Vigors in 1825.  Vigors noted the similarity to both hawks and falcons, but placed Gampsonyx within the “Accipitrine subfamily” because it lacks the notched beak of the falcons. He also noted its striking resemblance to the coloration of the falconets.

Later, the pearl kite was classified with the falcons. For example, Peters placed it with the forest falcons in subfamily Polyhieracinae. In the mid-20th century it was found to be related to Elanus based on morphology and its molt schedule.

This tiny kite breeds from Panama, Colombia and Venezuela south to Bolivia and northern Argentina, with an isolated sedentary population in Nicaragua. It is expanding its range and was proved to breed on Trinidad in 1970. It was first reported in Costa Rica in the mid-1990s, and now is fairly common along Pacific slope, to 1000m.

Pearl Kite (Gampsonyx swainsonii) ©Flickr Fernando Flores

The pearl kite is 20.3–23 cm (8.0–9.1 in) in length and weighs 80–95 g (2.8–3.4 oz). It is the smallest raptor in the Americas and one of the two smallest accipitrids in the world (besides the little sparrowhawk). The tiny hawk, another neotropical species, attains a slightly higher weight than the pearl kite. The adult has a black crown, upperparts, wing and tail, a rufous edged white collar, yellow forehead and cheeks, mainly white underparts, and yellow legs. Immature birds are similar to the adults but have white and chestnut tips to the back and wing feathers, a buff collar and some buff on the white underparts. In flight this species looks mainly black above and white below. The northern form G. s. leonae differs from the nominate G. s. swainsonii in that it has rufous flanks.

The nest is a deep cup of sticks built high in a tree. The clutch is 2-4 brown-marked white eggs, incubated mainly by the female for 34–35 days to hatching, with a further 5 weeks to fledging. There may be two broods in a season.

The pearl kite feeds mainly on lizards, especially Anolis, but also takes small birds and insects; it usually sits on a high open perch from which it swoops on its prey. The call is a high musical pip-pip-pip-pip or kitty-kitty-kitty.


More Avian and Attributes

Birds whose first name starts with “P”

What will you do with Jesus?

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[Definitions from Webster’s Dictionary of American English (1828), unless noted. Bird info from Wikipedia plus.]

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