A WILD NEIGHBOR IN OUR URBAN AREAS
Mississippi Kites are one of the few North American hawks that will nest in close proximity to humans. They are commonly found in cities and towns. During the spring and summer these kites are found nesting in scattered locations throughout the southern half of the United States. In the fall, Mississippi Kites migrate to South America where they spend the winter.
Although Mississippi Kites are known to eat mice, frogs, lizards, and small birds, the majority of their diet is composed of insects, especially grasshoppers. In this respect, they are very beneficial to man.
Mississippi Kites occasionally come into conflict with people during the nesting season. After the eggs hatch and while the young Kites are in the nest, a small percentage f the adult Kites will dive at humans that get too close to the nest tree. This is an attempt by the birds to chase people, that they perceive to be a threat to their young, away from the nest site. This diving behavior is a short-lived phenomenon, generally occurring only in July and August.
While Mississippi Kites often nest in city parks or neighborhoods that receive heavy human traffic, only a few of the Kites ever "harass" people in defending their young.
Mississippi Kites are not an endangered species. However, they are protected by federal and state law. It is unlawful for private citizens to harm these birds or their nests. Federal regulations do permit U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel to respond to citizen complaints concerning Kites that are causing problems. Whenever feasible, Service Personnel visit the area and take what action they deem necessary to correct the problem. In some instances this involves the removal of a kite's nest, eggs, or young which takes away the stimulus for parental defensive aggression.
In the Oklahoma City area, Mississippi Kite eggs that have been removed from a problem nest are taken to the Oklahoma City Zoo for placement in an incubator. Soon after the orphaned eggs have hatched, the young are translocated, by authorized members of the Audubon Society of Central Oklahoma, to "foster" Kite nests in areas receiving less human traffic. Young Kites already hatched in problem nests are translocated to foster nests in the same way. This gives the young birds a chance to be raised in the wild where they belong.
The City of Nichols Hills, a part of Oklahoma City metropolitan area, has a very large nesting population of Kites. Consequently, a large percentage of the Kite complaints come from this area. Assistance from the City in dealing with problem birds has been very good. The Nichols Hills Fire Department has provided manpower and equipment to aid in the retrieval of eggs and young of offending birds. Additionally, the Nichols Hills City Council has granted permission for the installation of Kite information signs in the nesting areas. These signs were paid for by a grant from the Non-game Wildlife Program of Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The purpose of the signs is to minimize the negative encounters between Kites and people through an explanation of Mississippi Kite behavior and how to avoid defensive diving aggression.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
If you are in an area where Mississippi Kites are nesting and one starts diving at you, remember that it is only trying to protect its young. Wave your arms above your head and, where practical, move away from the immediate area. Waving your arms will not stop the bird's dive, but it will usually prevent the bird from striking you. Actual strikes are rare. The birds usually fly by very closely in an effort to intimidate the "intruder" into leaving.
When Kites get excited or feel threatened they will often emit a high pitched "scream." This vocalization will often attract other kites that are in the area. These additional Kites are generally only "onlookers" and will not actually take part in the diving flights.
Mississippi Kites are beautiful, wild birds which should be respected and admired. They are of great benefit to man. For these reasons the population as a whole should not be persecuted. Preventive or corrective action should be limited to the individual Kites which may present a human health or safety problem.
When encountering a Mississippi Kite problem please call : Dept. of Fish and Wildlife at 405-521-4039