Home | Species Database | Species Accounts | Bibliography | Researchers | Related Sites | Login

Mississippi Kite
Ictinia mississippiensis

Status: Lower risk

Population Trend: Increasing.

Other Names: 

Ictinia mississippiensis
click to enlarge
Distribution: Nearctic/Neotropical. Breeds in southern and eastern UNITED STATES (southern Arizona, Kansas, Illinois, Missouri and western Kentucky east to South Carolina and as far north, recently, to Wisconsin) and migrates through Central America and northern South America to winter in BRAZIL, PARAGUAY, and ARGENTINA. more....

Subspecies: Monotypic.

Taxonomy: Possibly conspecific with I. plumbea (Amadon and Bull 1988), or at least forms a superspecies with it (Stresemann and Amadon 1979, Sibley and Monroe 1990, Thiollay 1994). In his original description, Wilson's original description contained the mispelling "misisippiensis,", but he used the corrected version in all later mention of the species, and it is now the accepted usage (Blake 1977). The studies of Lerner and Mindell (2005) and Lerner et al. (2008), based on molecular sequences from two mitochondrial genes and one nuclear intron, showed that this genus is more closely related to the buteonine taxa than to other kites and that it does not fall into any of the three kite clades, Elaninae, Perninae, or Milvinae. The molecular study of Griffiths et al. (2007) also confirmed this finding.

Movements: Complete, trans-equatorial migrant (Bildstein 2006), moving annually between the breeding range in the United States and wintering grounds in austral South America. Departs from the United States between the end of August and late September, with a few remaining into October, and returns chiefly from April to the third week of May, with some arriving as early as the beginning of March (Eisenmann 1963). This species migrates later than the Plumbeous Kite in both spring and fall (Ridgely and Gwynne 1989). Monroe (1968) noted that in Honduras Mississippi Kites do not occur among mixed flocks of other migrant raptor species, including Plumbeous Kites, Swainson's and Broad-winged hawks, and Turkey Vultures, but it often occurs with these species elsewhere. An enormous flock estimated at 10,000 individuals was recently reported on northward bound migration at Fuerte Esperanza, Argentina (Areta and Seipke 2006), and an unusually large southbound flock containing at least 9,700 birds was reported during fall migration near Corpus Christi, Texas (Smith 2004). more....

Habitat and Habits: Occurs at mostly lower elevations in riparian forest, open woodland, prairies, and in wooded suburbs in its breeding range. Typically seen in flight over open areas, or perched in tall trees. Somewhat gregarious in winter, with groups of 10-50 individuals occurring in Argentina, often roosting in large stands of eucalyptus trees (Di Giacomo 2005).

Food and Feeding Behavior: Feeds mainly on insects, particularly cicadas and dragonflies, but also takes small birds.more....

Breeding: more....

Conservation: This species has steadily expanded its breeding range over the past century into new regions around the margins of its historical range, as it existed at the time of Audubon and Wilson (Bolen and Flores 1989, 1993), and wanderers now occur almost annually in most of the eastern United States. The first nesting record of Mississippi Kites for Ohio was documented in 2007 (McCormac and Boone 2008), and, remarkably, the first breeding records for both New Hampshire and Connecticut were reported in 2008 (Donsker 2008). By 2010, Mississippi Kites were found nesting in New Hampshire, Connecticut and (successfully) in Rhode Island (Petersen 2011). The reasons for this sudden range expansion are not well understood. The Mississippi Kite is categorized as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International. more....

Population Estimates: The entire global breeding population is confined to the United States, and Rich et al. (2004) estimated its size at about 190,000 individuals, based mainly on extrapolations from Breeding Bird Surveys. The mean number of migrants recorded at the Veracruz River of Raptors hawkwatch site from 1992-2004 was 157,199, and including birds that migrate west of this site, the rounded population estimate for birds migrating through Veracruz is 180,000 individuals (Ruelas Inzunza et al. 2010). more....

Important References: 
Bent, A.C. 1937. Life histories of North American birds of prey. Order
  Falconiformes (Part 1). U.S. National Museum Bulletin 167.
Bolen, E.G., and D.L. Flores. 1989. The Mississippi Kite in the
  environmental history of the southern Great Plains. Prairie Naturalist
Bolen, E.G., and D. Flores. 1993. The Mississippi Kite: portrait of a
  southern hawk. University of Texas Press Austin, TX.
Botelho, E.S., A.L. Gennaro, and P.C. Arrowood. 1993. Parental care,
  nestling behaviors and nestling interactions in a Mississippi Kite (Ictinia
) nest. Journal of Raptor Research 27:16-20.
Eisenmann, E. 1963. Mississippi Kite in Argentina; with comments on
  migration and plumages in the genus Ictinia. Auk 80:74-77.
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Gennaro, A.L. 1988. Breeding biology of an urban population of Mississippi
  Kites in New Mexico. National Wildlife Federation Scientific and Technical
  Series 11:188-190.
Glinski, R.L., and R.D. Ohmart. 1983. Breeding ecology of the Mississippi
  Kite in Arizona. Condor 85:200-207.
Olivo, C. 2001. Migration patterns of Mississippi Kites (Ictinia
) in the eastern lowlands of Bolivia. Ornitologia
  Neotropical 16 (suppl.):109-115.
Parker, J.W. 1974. The breeding biology of the Mississippi Kite in the
  Great Plains. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS.
Parker, J.W. 1988. Mississippi Kite Ictinia mississippiensis. Pp. 166-186
  in R.S. Palmer (ed.), Handbook of North American birds. Vol. 4. Yale
  University Press, New Haven, CT.
Parker, J.W., and J.C. Ogden. 1979. The recent history and status of the
  Mississippi Kite. American Birds 33:119-129.
White, C.M. 1994. Mississippi Kite. Pp. 117-118 in del Hoyo, J., A.
  Elliott, and J. Sargatal (eds). Handbook of birds of the world. Vol. 2. New
  World vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Whittaker, A., K.J. Zimmer, and B. Carlos. 2008. The status of Mississippi
  Kite Ictinia mississippiensis in Brazil, including further documented
  records for the country. Cotinga 29:139-143.

Sites of Interest:
Mississippi Kite photos.
Aves de Rapina do Brasil
Species account with emphasis on Brazil.

Martinez-Fernandez, Alberto
Mojica, Libby
Olivo Quiroga, Cristian E.
Tejeda-Tellez, Arianna G.
Whittaker, Andrew

Last modified: 11/4/2016

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2021. Species account: Mississippi Kite Ictinia mississippiensis. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 27 Sep. 2021

Home | Species Database | Species Accounts | Bibliography | Researchers | Related Sites | Login

Copyright © 1999-2012 The Peregrine Fund. All Rights Reserved.