Jesus said: “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink . . . Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, . . . your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26)
For ushering in the year of our Lord 2020, below follows the fourth advance installment of alphabet-illustrating birds of the world, as part of this new series (“Birds Are Wonderful — and Some Are a Little Weird“*). The letter J is illustrated by Jack-Snipe, Junco, and Jackdaw. The letter K illustrated by Kiwi, Kites, and King of Saxony Bird-of-Paradise. The letter L illustrated by Loons, Loggerhead Shrike, and Little Spider-Hunter.
“J” BIRDS: Jack-Snipe, Junco, and Jackdaw.
“K” BIRDS: Kiwi, Kites, and King of Saxony Bird-of-Paradise.
“L” BIRDS: Loons, Loggerhead Shrike, Little Spider-Hunter.
Birds are truly wonderful — and some, like the King of Saxony Bird-of-Paradise, are a little bit extravagant-looking, if not also weird! (Stay tuned for more, D.v.)
* Quoting from “Birds Are Wonderful, and Some Are a Little Weird”, (c) AD2019 James J. S. Johnson [used here by permission].
and the red kite, the falcon, and the kite in their kinds, (Deuteronomy 14:13 NASB)
In the Birds of the Bible – Hidden Covenant Part 3, I mistakenly placed this photo of a Swallow-tailed Kite instead of a Swallow. I have since fixed my mistake. A J was talking about the Swallows observing the time of their coming and he used Jeremiah 8:7.
Even the stork in the heavens Knows her appointed times; And the turtledove, the swift, and the swallow Observe the time of their coming. But My people do not know the judgment of the LORD. (Jeremiah 8:7 NKJV)
The reason I mixed them up is because right now, in this area, the Swallow-tailed Kites are being spotted. I have seen a single one three times and just the other day, Dan and I had two of them skim over the top of trees, right in front of us. They have been in the area for a month or so, and soon they will move on again. They “Observe the time of their coming.” Thus the mistake on my part.
They may be one of the Birds of Prey, but they were beautifully created by the Lord. They are so graceful and enjoyable to watch. I am always amazed at the Creator’s use of such variety in the birds and in all the other neat things around us.
Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, Fearful in praises, doing wonders? (Exodus 15:11 NKJV)
According to the Audubon WatchList, “Two subspecies found in the Americas. Northern subspecies (Elanoides forficatus forficatus) breeds in small sections of seven southeastern U.S. states and in southern Mexico. Members of this group migrate to South America in the late summer. Southern subspecies (Elanoides forficatus yetapa) found through much of South America. The estimated U.S. population of approximately 10,000 birds now breeds in fragmented populations from South Carolina south to Florida and west to Louisiana/Texas border with largest known populations in northern Florida. Formerly bred north to Minnesota and west through Texas to Mexico. Significant populations remain in Florida and along the Pascagoula River in Mississippi.”
I really enjoy seeing these Kites because you just have to be looking in the right direction at the right time. Every time they have been spotted by us, they just sort of “appear” over the tops of the trees. They skim so low, that when they come over you, you either see them or you don’t.
Kites are of course one of our Birds of the Bible – (Glede and Kites). They are mentioned twice in Scripture in the list of “unclean” birds in Leviticus 11:14 and Deuteronomy 14:13. Each time “after its kind” is given. So, our Swallow-tailed Kite is one of those kinds and would like to introduce you to this amazing bird that is so neat to watch flying. When they spread that tail of theirs, it is just super neat.
The Swallow-tailed Kite is a member of the Accipitridae Family (Kites, Hawks & Eagles) Family in the Order Accipitriformes. They are considered Abundance Common according the Thayer Birding software.
They are 24 inches (60 cm) with a very long black forked tail, white head, chest, belly and leading portion of underwing. Their flight feathers are black and their back is also black.
They are a medium-sized, graceful, long-winged, long-tailed hawk with pointed wings, a short, dark, hooked bill. The males and females are similar.
Adults have a long, deeply forked tail. white head, neck, chest, underwing coverts, belly, and undertail coverts, a slate gray back and upperwings, black tail and flight feathers. Whereas the immature is duller than adult with fine streaks on head and breast and has a shorter, less deeply-forked tail than adult.
Thayer also says of their habitat and behavior – ” Wet open woodlands, bottomlands, wooded river swamps, marshes, wetlands, and along rivers, ponds and lakes. Agile and graceful in flight. Eats in flight by bending head and neck under body to eat prey held in talon. Will drink in flight, much like a swallow. Gregarious. Will sweep low over open fields and grasslands to catch food or soar very high for flying insects.”
Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus) by Africaddict
The Swallow-tails like to breed in “Lowland forest, especially swampy areas extending into open woodland. 1 brood. Mating system is monogamous. Displays are In flight: easy sailing, curving chase often over water. On perch: mutual approach on horizontal limb, face-off, female quickly turns or backs under limb. They also do courtship feeding.
The nest is usually in treetop concealed by thick foliage and they place it on a foundation of preceding year’s nest. It consist of sticks, twigs, moss, pine needles, leaves, lichen. Lined with fine materials, few feathers. Both sexes help with nest construction.
The eggs are white, marked with browns, occasionally lavender, often concentrated at end. 1.8” (47 mm). Both sexes incubate. with Incubation taking 28 days. Development is semialtricial (immobile, downy, eyes open, fed). Young are able to fly after 36-42 days. Both sexes tend young.
The spend their winters from Colombia and Venezuela S. Marsh drainage, deforestation, and shooting are responsible for reduction in population and range.
Miscellaneous notes; Occasionally nest in loose colonies of a few pairs. Bathe and drink by skimming water surface like swallow. Occasionally soar at great heights. Up to 200 pieces used in nest, carried individually, may require up to 800 miles of flight. Formerly known as American Swallow-tailed Kite; changed by AOU in 1996.
From Thayer Birding Software, The Birder’s Handbook, Wikipedia, and other internet sources.
Ian’s Bird of the Week – Letter-winged Kite ~ by Ian Montgomery
Newsletter ~ 4/18/13
For all you patient bird of the week recipients, here is I hope a bird worth waiting for, the Letter-winged Kite, star attraction on the recent trip along the Birdsville Track in Northwestern South Australia.
The Letter-winged Kite saga that had its resolution here started in the 1970s when I was living in Surry Hills in inner city Sydney. One evening, I was walking around to the local pub, the Cricketers Arms, on Fitzroy Street a block away from busy South Dowling Street when I found a pair of Letter-winged Kites, unfazed by the traffic, landing in a small tree on the pavement. The L-shaped markings under the wing were clearly visible, so there was no doubt about the identification – I was going to the pub, not tottering home afterwards – no matter how unlikely the location for this species, usually more at home in the semi-desert of Central Australia.
I supposed at the time that they were escaped birds. I found out only later that not only are these Kites nocturnal, but that they spread far and wide in search of food from their usual, arid, home following the population crash that follows plagues of their main prey, the Long-haired Rat. Come to think of it, the rather arid open spaces of Moore Park lie on the other side of South Dowling Street, and I’m sure there are plenty of ordinary rats in Surry Hills.
Letter-winged Kite (Elanus scriptus) by Ian 2
Ordinary people drive the 500km of dirt road that constitutes the legendary Birdsville Track from Birdsville in Southwestern Queensland to Marree in Northeastern South Australia (and the parallel Strzelecki Track) for the experience. Birders do it to search for elusive dry country birds, particularly the Letter-winged Kite and the Grey Falcon and both of these were top of my wanted list on this trip. Letter-winged Kites roost in trees by day, so I searched the few trees – nearly all in creek beds – along the Birdsville Track until, 252km south of Birdsville I spotted a couple of suspects, screeched to a halt in a cloud of dusk and approached them in the car. Birders have 4WD vehicles, such as my modest Suzuki SZ4, mainly so that they can use them as mobile bird hides as most birds are more tolerant of vehicles than pedestrians.
Letter-winged Kite (Elanus scriptus) by Ian 3
Letter-winged Kites indeed they were, but the tree was a tangle of branches and the sun was shining from behind the tree. The birds, however, seemed as unfazed by the traffic (relatively speaking) as the ones in Fitzroy Street, and let me approach to take the first photo (good lighting angle, bad branches), second photo (bad angle, good branches). Then they waited while I changed the lens from the 100-400mm to the 500mm and, eventually, looked on tolerantly while I got out of the car and did a relative close-up (third photo) and a portrait (fourth photo).
Letter-winged Kite (Elanus scriptus) by Ian 4
I then walked away to take a photo of the tree, the birds and a nest (I don’t know whether it was theirs) and turned around to find that they had silently vanished. If it hadn’t been for the photos definitely still on the SD card, the event might have all have been a fantasy. So I made do with a photo of the tree, the nest and the mobile bird hide, below.
Letter-winged Kite (Elanus scriptus) by Ian 5
The Strzelecki Track is actually supposed to be better for Letter-winged Kites than the Birdsville, but, having found these birds, we decided to change our return travel plans from Plan B1 to Plan B2, skip the Strzelecki (similar landscape, worse road), spend a few days in the Flinders Ranges and drive home via Broken Hill, Bourke and Bowra (B2), instead of Birdsville, Bedourie and Boulia (B1).
And the glede, and the kite, and the vulture after his kind, (Deuteronomy 14:13 KJV)
What an awesome bird. They are beautiful. Thanks, Ian, for sharing another of your birdwatching adventures with us. His photography is fabulous also. I love that close-up in #4. Wow!
The Letter-winged Kite (Elanus scriptus) is a small, rare and irruptive Australian raptor with a core range in central Australia. The adult is a small and graceful, predominantly pale grey and white, raptor with black shoulders and red eyes. It is similar in appearance to the Black-shouldered Kite except for a very distinctive black underwing pattern of a shallow ‘M’ shape, seen when in flight. Roosting during the day in well-foliaged trees and hunting at night, it is the world’s only fully nocturnal raptor. Like all the elanid kites, it is a specialist predator of rodents, which it hunts by hovering in mid-air above grasslands and fields. (Wikipedia)
Ian’s Bird of the Week – White-tailed Kite ~ by Ian Montgomery
Newsletter ~ 1-06-11
It was only when I was recently preparing this photo for the website, that I noticed that this White-tailed Kite was carrying a small mammal, probably a mouse given the location and the length of the tail, so I thought I would share it with you.
If you are an Australian birder and this bird looked very familiar – ah, a Black-shouldered Kite – you actually be very nearly right. The endemic Australian Black-shouldered (Elanus axillaris), the American White-tailed (E. leucurus) and the Old World Black-winged (E. caeruleus) Kites have been regarded as a single species in the past. Although they are now treated as separate ones, they are referred to collectively as a ‘super-species’, which, if you’re cynical, you might see as a case of taxonomists hedging their bets. The only other member of the genus Elanus worldwide is the Letterwinged Kite (E. scriptus), also an Australian endemic and a rarely seen, largely nocturnal inhabitant of the dry centre.
Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus axillaris) by Ian
The three species differ slightly in size – the White-tailed at 15in/38cm in length is by a small margin the largest – but mainly in the pattern of the underwing. If you look carefully at this bird you can see a blackish spot on a white background near the wrist joint (the primary underwing coverts). This is longer in the Australian version and missing completely in the otherwise very similar Eurasian one. The Black-winged occurs quite widely through southeastern and southern Asia, central and southern Africa and, in small numbers in Iberia and north Africa. The White-tailed occurs in the southern USA and Central and South America.
These are elegant little kites, hover like kestrels and all feed mainly on small mammals. The Letter-winged is particularly partial to the long-haired rat, despite its scientific name Rattus villosissimus, and its population cycles follow the rat’s with the birds dispersing widely when the rat population crashes. I once saw a pair at dusk in a street in inner Sydney (Surry Hills) and you can’t get much farther from the dry interior than that.
Anyway, I’m getting off the track. Back at the website, I’ve added new photos of Australian, American White and Brown Pelicans and starting adding some snakes to the Other Wildlife section.
Another neat bird from Ian. Glad to see him post because I wasn’t sure if he was being affected by the flooding in Australia.
The Kites are in the Accipitridae Family with the Hawks, Kites and Eagles. The Accipitridae are in the Accipitriformes Order which not only includes them but also the New World Vultures, Secretarybird and Ospreys.
But these are they of which ye shall not eat: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray, And the glede, and the kite, and the vulture after his kind, (Deuteronomy 14:12-13 KJV)
Ian’s Bird of the Week – Whistling Kite ~ by Ian Montgomery
I’ve just revised the eagle, hawk and allies galleries (Acciptridae http://www.birdway.com.au/accipitridae/index.htm ) on the website with the new format, larger image sizes and regional indices with different background colours. Eagles and hawks attract great interest generally and are the most popular targets for internet searches on the website. They’re also popular with birders and are a challenge to identify in flight, so a good place to start is the widespread and common Whistling Kite – the one we probably check most often to make sure it isn’t something more unusual like a Square-tailed Kite or Little Eagle.
Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus) by Ian
At 50-60cm/20-24in in length and with a wingspan of about 1.2m/47in, the Whistling Kite is just one of about a dozen Australian species of raptors in this size range and with colours in varying shades of coffee. So, leaving size and beverages aside, identification relies on other features particular underwing pattern, relative sizes and shapes of wings and tail and style of flight. As you can see in the first two photos, Whistling Kites have distinctive wing patterns, with the most notable feature being the contrasting outer very dark primaries*, very pale 3 or 4 inner primaries and very dark secondaries. The resulting pattern is a white spot on the trailing edge of the wing and a pale right-angle formed by the leading under-wing coverts and the pale primaries. This is diagnostic: other raptors have pale patches – windows or bull-eyes – but usually in the ‘palm’ of the hand or the leading edge and lack an abrupt right-angle.
Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus) by Ian
*The primary flight feathers, usually numbering 9 -11 inmost species of birds (except Grebes, Storks and Flamingos – 12 – and Ostriches – 16) and are attached to the ‘hand’ part of the wing (metacarpals and phalanges of the large second digit). The secondaries, very variable in number, are attached to the ulna of the ‘forearm’ between the ‘elbow’ (not obvious in birds as the humerus is short and thick for attachment of the large pectoral muscle) and the ‘wrist’ – the forward-pointing angle in the middle of the leading edge.
Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus) by Ian
The tail of the Whistling Kite is characteristic too: long, latte coloured and paddle-shaped with a rounded and you can see in the first that the Whistling Kites swivel the tail like a paddle for steering. Most other raptors have darker tails with barring – the Whistling Kite has faint, barely visible bars. Whistling Kites glide with horizontally curved – rather than flat or angled wings – a bit like seagulls one draws as a kid and have a rather floppy untidy flight. When perched, they usually do so in an upright stance, rather like a Brown Falcon, as in the third photo. They build a typical raptor nest – bulky, with large sticks – high in a tree and re-used so that it gets very large after a number of years.
The Whistling Kite gets its name from its distinctively un-raptor-like call. Its is common throughout Australia except in the driest areas of western South Australia and eastern Western Australia. They take live prey including fish, so they are frequenty found near both fresh and salt water, but also feed on carrion and are often seen cruising along highways, along with Black Kites, Brahminy Kites and Wedge-tailed Eagles, looking for road-kills. Their only close relative is the Brahminy Kite, and these two species comprise (globally) the genus Haliastur.
Back at the website, I’ve applied the new format to the Cockatoos and Estrildid Finches, both also popular targets:
Ian has been working hard on his website and it is really looking good. Ian, I like the new format. Click on his links for some really nice photographs of birds and other critters. Birdway.com.au From his site, “28 May 2010: this site contains more than 5,000 photos of 1,234 bird species in the wild – 596 of these are on the main Australian list of Christidis & Boles, 2008 – and 83 photos of 23 species of reptiles and Australian mammals.”
And the vulture, and the kite after his kind; (Leviticus 11:14 KJV)
This week I am presenting two species, mainly because of the similarity between them. Again, these birds are from the lists of “unclean” birds. The Glede mentioned in Deut. 14:13 is interpreted as Glede, Red Kite, or Vulture, depending on which copy of the Bible you use. When “Googling”, most articles list the Glede as extinct or a Kite.
(KJV) And the glede, and the kite, and the vulture after his kind,
(NASB) and the red kite, the falcon, and the kite in their kinds,
(NKJV) the red kite, the falcon, and the kite after their kinds;
The Kite is also mentioned in:
Leviticus 11:14 KJV) And the vulture, and the kite after his kind;
That said, the Glede and Kite:
In the “Acciptiformes Order” which includes Hawks, Eagles, Falcons, Kites, etc.
Have large hooked bills
Very good eyesight used for finding prey while soaring
Are known to eat carrion
“The kite is a migratory bird that stays in Israel during the summer, especially in the mountains of southern Judea, in the trackless wasted west of the Dead Sea, and in the wilderness of Beersheba.
The red kite or glede is a medium-sized bird of prey. The edges of the upper part of the bill overlap with the lower one, forming sharp scissors. The tail is forked or cleft like that of a fish. Its loud cry often includes sharp whistling notes. Other Holy Land species include the black kite and the black-winged kite.” Tyndall Bible Dictionary
In Central Florida, we see the Swallow-tailed Kite.