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Mississippi Kite

Ictinia mississippiensis

Length: 14-16 inches Wingspan: 34-38 inches Seasonality: Rare summer visitor
ID Keys: Primarily gray with black tail, white patch on upperside of inner wing (sometimes visible in flight)

Mississippi Kite - Ictinia mississippiensisMost common on the southern Great Plains, despite the name.  The Mississippi Kite primarily feeds on large insects, most of which are caught in a graceful gliding flight.  Not nearly as territorial as some raptors, loose breeding colonies and communal roosts are common in parts of the South.

Habitat: During breeding season, prefers tall trees adjacent to open country.  Often nests in shelterbelts on the southern Great Plains. 

Diet: Primarily feeds on large insects.  Will also eat rodents, small birds, frogs, snakes, and lizards.

Behavior: Catches insects while in flight, often eating them in flight as well.  Will sometimes follow farm machinery for insects stirred up, or hunt along the edges of grass fires to do the same.  Will occasionally feed on carrion/carcasses.

Breeding: Non-breeder in South Dakota

Song: Generally silent, but does make whistling alarm calls.

Migration: Summers through parts of the southern United States.  A long-distance migrant, Mississippi Kite's winter in South America.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Mississippi Kite sightings

Similar Species: White-tailed Kite, Peregrine Falcon

Conservation Status: Has expanding significantly in numbers and range since the early 1900s.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Mississippi Kite

2) WhatBird - Mississippi Kite

3) Mississippi Kite - Audubon Guide

Photo Information: Photo courtesy of Judi Ann - Photo licensed under Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 2.0 Generic license


Click on the range map for a higher-resolution view 
Mississippi Kite - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Accidental, with only a handful of records in the state.