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Ictinia mississippiensis

Ictinia mississippiensis (*)

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Superphylum: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Cladus: Reptiliomorpha
Cladus: Amniota
Classis: Reptilia
Cladus: Eureptilia
Cladus: Romeriida
Subclassis: Diapsida
Cladus: Sauria
Infraclassis: Archosauromorpha
Cladus: Crurotarsi
Divisio: Archosauria
Subsectio: Ornithodira
Subtaxon: Dinosauromorpha
Cladus: Dinosauria
Ordo: Saurischia
Cladus: Eusaurischia
Cladus: Theropoda
Cladus: Neotheropoda
Cladus: Averostra
Cladus: Tetanurae
Cladus: Avetheropoda
Cladus: Coelurosauria
Cladus: Maniraptoromorpha
Cladus: Maniraptoriformes
Cladus: Maniraptora
Cladus: Pennaraptora
Cladus: Eumaniraptora
Cladus: Avialae
Infraclassis: Aves
Cladus: Euavialae
Cladus: Avebrevicauda
Cladus: Pygostylia
Cladus: Ornithothoraces
Cladus: Euornithes
Cladus: Ornithuromorpha
Cladus: Ornithurae
Cladus: Carinatae
Parvclassis: Neornithes
Cohors: Neognathae
Ordo: Accipitriformes

Familia: Accipitridae
Subfamilia: Milvinae
Genus: Ictinia
Species: Ictinia mississippiensis

Ictinia mississippiensis (A. Wilson, 1811)

Falco misisippiensis (protonym; orth. err.)


American Ornithology or, the Natural History of the Birds of the United States 3: 80, pl.25 fig.1.

Vernacular names
العربية: حدأة ميسيسيبي
български: Мисисипска каня
català: Elani del Mississipí
čeština: Luňák mississipský
Cymraeg: Barcud Mississippi
English: Mississippi Kite
Esperanto: Misisipia milvo
español: Elanio del Mississippí
suomi: Sirkkahaukka
français: Milan du Mississippi
magyar: Sólyomhéja
italiano: Nibbio del Mississippi
Nederlands: Mississippiwouw
Diné bizaad: Chʼiltaalkʼę́hé łigaaígíí
русский: Миссисипский коршун
svenska: Mississippiglada

The Mississippi kite (Ictinia mississippiensis) is a small bird of prey in the family Accipitridae. Mississippi kites have narrow, pointed wings and are graceful in flight, often appearing to float in the air. It is not uncommon to see several circling in the same area.


Adults are gray with darker gray on their tail feathers and outer wings and lighter gray on their heads and inner wings. Kites of all ages have red eyes and red to yellow legs.[2] Males and females look alike, but the males are slightly paler on the head and neck. Young kites have banded tails and streaked bodies.[3] It is 12 to 15 inches (30–37 cm) beak to tail and has a wingspan averaging 3 feet (91 cm). Weight is from 214 to 388 grams (7.6-13.7 oz). Their call is a high-pitched squeak, sounding similar to that of a squeaky toy.
Range and migration

The summer breeding territory of the Mississippi kite is in the central and southern United States; the southern Great Plains is considered a stronghold for the species.[4] Breeding territory has expanded in recent years and Mississippi kites have been regularly recorded in the southern New England states; a pair has successfully raised young as far north as Newmarket, New Hampshire.[5] Another pair was observed breeding in Ohio in 2007.[6] As well, the territory has expanded westwards due to shelterbelts being planted in grassland habitats. They migrate to southern subtropical South America in the winter, mostly to Argentina and Brazil. Migration normally occurs in groups of 20 to 30 birds.[4] However, there are exceptions; mixed flocks may occur in migration, being recorded with up to 10,000 birds in one instance at Fuerte Esperanza, Argentina.[6]


Mississippi kites are described as very social birds, gathering in roosts in late summer. They do not maintain territories.[7]

A Mississippi kite looks at a bee caught in midair

The diet of the Mississippi kite consists mostly of insects which they capture in flight. They eat cicada, grasshoppers, and other crop-damaging insects, making them economically important. They have also been known to eat small vertebrates, including birds, amphibians, reptiles, and small mammals.[4] They will usually hunt from a low perch before chasing after prey, eating it in flight.[6] They have been known to fly around cattle and horsemen to catch insects stirred up from the grass.[7]

Mississippi kites are monogamous, forming breeding pairs before or soon after arriving at breeding sites. Courtship displays are rare, however individuals have been seen guarding their mate from competitors.[2]

Mississippi kites usually lay two white eggs (rarely one or three) in twig nests that rest in a variety of deciduous trees, most commonly in elm, eastern cottonwood, hackberry, oak, and mesquite. Except in elm and cottonwood, most nests are fewer than 20 feet (6 m) above the ground,[4] and are usually near water.[8] Eggs are white to pale-bluish in color, and are usually about 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) long. In the past 75 years, they have undergone changes in nesting habitat from use of forest and savanna to include shelterbelts and are now very common nesters in urban area that are highly populated in the western south-central states.[4]
A juvenile Mississippi Kite stands in a nest
A juvenile in the nest

Mississippi kites nest in colonies and both parents (paired up before arriving at the nesting site) incubate the eggs and care for the young.[4] They have one clutch a year which takes 30 to 32 days to hatch. The young birds leave the nest another 30 to 34 days after hatching. Only about half of kites successfully raise their young. Clutches fall victim to storms and predators such as raccoons and great horned owls. Because of the reduced amount of predators in urban areas, Mississippi kites produce more offspring in urban areas than rural areas. They have an average lifespan of 8 years.[4]

While the Mississippi kite is not an endangered species,[1] it is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918,[9] which protects the birds, their eggs, and their nests (occupied or empty) from being moved or tampered with without the proper permits. This can make the bird somewhat of a nuisance when it chooses to roost in populated urban spots such as golf courses or schools. The birds protect their nests by diving at perceived threats, including humans; however, this occurs in less than 20% of nests. Staying at least 50 yards from nests is the best way to avoid conflict with the birds. If unavoidable, wearing a hat or waving hands in the air should prevent contact from being made but will not prevent the diving behavior.[4] While it was in decline in the mid-1900s, the species now has an increasing population and expanding range.[6]

A juvenile in Oklahoma, USA

Mississippi kite


BirdLife International (2016). "Ictinia mississippiensis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T22695066A93488215. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22695066A93488215.en. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
"Ictinia mississippiensis (Mississippi kite)".
Udvardy, Miklos D. F.; Farrand Jr., John (1994), National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds Western Region, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, pp. 349–350, ISBN 0-679-42851-8
Andelt, William F. (1994), "Mississippi Kites" (PDF), Internet Center for Wildlife and Damage Management, handbook: E76, archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-06-13, retrieved 2008-08-20
"Bird Unseen in N.H. Spotted in Newmarket", WMUR-TV, ["Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-05-22. Retrieved 2008-06-25.
"Mississippi Kite | The Peregrine Fund". Retrieved 2021-06-16.
"Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis)". Retrieved 2021-06-18.
"MISSISSIPPI KITE | The Texas Breeding Bird Atlas". Retrieved 2021-06-16.

Birds Protected Under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act (PDF)

External links

Mississippi Kite - Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center Article
Mississippi kite videos on the Internet Bird Collection

Historical material

"Falco Mississippiensis, Mississippi Kite"; in American Ornithology 2nd edition, volume 1 (1828) by Alexander Wilson and George Ord. Colour plate from 1st edition by A. Wilson.
John James Audubon. "The Mississippi Kite", Ornithological Biography volume 2 (1834). Illustration from Birds of America octavo edition, 1840.
"Mississippi Kite", Thomas Nuttall, A manual of the ornithology of the United States and of Canada; volume 1, The Land Birds (1832).

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