Migrating kites roosting within the backyard on their approach to South America

August 31, 2021

Austin’s Kite Pageant, held yearly in March, ought to maybe be moved to August. Why? Proper now huge flocks of Mississippi kites are passing by means of Austin on the best way to their wintering grounds in South America.

In all seriousness, although, the sight of fifty to 75 kites swirling final night by means of our yard and roosting within the tops of the stay oaks awed me. It was fortunate we noticed them. My husband and I have been sitting on the sofa, going through the glass doorways overlooking the deck. Motion exterior caught our consideration on the identical time, and we stood as much as see what was taking place. Dozens and dozens of huge, dark-winged birds have been circling over the deck and swimming pool. Utterly silent. As we watched, they settled into the bushes to relaxation.

Are these…? we turned to one another to ask. For the previous a number of weeks we’ve noticed raptors with pointed wings hovering on thermals excessive above our pool, and infrequently swooping all the way down to treetop degree to choose off a big dragonfly (these continuously circle above the pool too). We thought they could be kites however didn’t really feel assured of the ID.

However final night we have been surrounded by these elegant grey birds with hooked beaks. Undoubtedly raptors of some type, however what hen of prey flocks in such giant numbers? I grabbed my digicam, posted pics on my Fb web page, and bought instantaneous affirmation from educated birding associates that these are Mississippi kites. I additionally discovered that they’re passing by means of Austin proper now in large numbers on their approach to South America, the place they’ll spend the winter. What’s extra, 1000’s — hundreds of thousands? — of different migrating birds are flying south by means of Texas proper now and in coming weeks. We’re a stopover on the avian migration path!

The kites didn’t stick round lengthy, and a few skittishly flew out of the bushes when our again door unintentionally slammed. However others stayed lengthy sufficient for me to {photograph} — and to wow us each with their numbers, their dimension, and their magnificence. I really feel fortunate to have seen them and glad we had the remainder cease they have been on the lookout for.

By the best way, do you know that migrating birds typically journey at evening and navigate by starlight or moonlight, and the synthetic lights of cities can disorient them on their journey? Audubon’s Lights Out initiative asks People to assist by turning off exterior lights between 11 pm and 6 am throughout migration season. A number of Texas counties, together with Austin’s Travis County, are collaborating. You may assist by turning off exterior lights, particularly floodlights and uplighting, in the course of the in a single day hours by means of November thirtieth. Constructing managers can also play an enormous half by turning off lights on the higher flooring of workplace buildings or closing blinds in a single day.

Lights out, y’all, and godspeed to the birds!

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