A few days ago, while birding in the Everglades, we were treated to the spectacle of two stunning Swallow-tailed Kites swooping and soaring right over our heads for nearly a half hour – what an amazing experience!Swallow-tailed Kites breed in the southeastern U.S., primarily in the freshwater marshes, wooded swamps, and lake shores of Florida, lucky for us (though I’d only had two previous, brief sightings of this bird). These Kites spend the fall and winter months in South America (Animal Diversity).They are unmistakable in flight, twisting and diving with ‘extraordinary aerial grace’ (Birds of North America). Their striking black and white plumage, long pointed wings, and deeply forked tail make them distinctive even from a great distance.
“Our most beautiful bird of prey, striking in its shape, its pattern, and its extraordinarily graceful flight. Hanging motionless in the air, swooping and gliding, rolling upside down and then zooming high in the air with scarcely a motion of its wings, the Swallow-tailed Kite is a joy to watch.” (Audubon) “Flying with barely a wingbeat and maneuvering with twists of its incredible tail . . .” (All About Birds), the Kite performs feats of aerial acrobatics, hunting, and even eating, in mid-air.The Swallow-tailed Kites feed mostly on insects, though they will also eat frogs, snakes and other small animals, especially when feeding their nestlings. These birds were probably out hunting to feed their young, whom we heard calling from the nest.
All About Birds says that the Swallow-tailed Kite has been called “the coolest bird on the planet” – I agree! What an awesome birding experience this was.