Saturday, February 15, 2014

White-tailed Kite

White-tailed Kite
White-tailed Kite. Lake Hodges, California. February 2, 2014. Greg Gillson.
White-tailed Kites started increasing greatly in Oregon about the time I started watching birds in 1972. The first Oregon nesting was at William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge near Corvallis in 1976. In October that year I visited Finley refuge and spotted my first kite in Oregon. In December our birding group found 7 birds there flying to roost at dusk.

Their unique hovering flight is shared with two other raptors: American Kestrels and Rough-legged Hawks.

In December 1978 Marlene and I were birding at Finley refuge with David Fix. In the morning David and I were looking at birds on the cold prairie while Marlene remained in the car to keep warm. Soon the car horn was sounding and we ran back. Marlene was very excited to point out this unusual bird hovering nearby. Her first White-tailed Kite!

I had seen kites in California as early as March 1973, but I didn't record an exact date or location. No doubt I saw several in the Central Valley on a trip from Oregon to Death Valley with my parents during spring break that year. Now that I think about it, that's where I first met David Fix--two Oregon teenagers on spring break meeting by chance looking at birds on the golf course at Furnace Creek Ranch.

Even now I encounter White-tailed Kites infrequently enough that they are still exciting to observe.