Kite Cam

The White-tailed Kite nest atop a tall tree looks like it’s thriving. The video above shows chicks and parents from April 21 through April 29. You can see definite growth in the chicks during that short span. They’re bigger, their feathers are turning more white, with the cinnamon bib of the juvenile, and their wings are wider and stronger. Credit for that lies with at least one parent, who has been bringing little mammals into the nest several times a day and ripping them into bite size pieces for the kids. Those bites are getting bigger, too. At one point it looks like a chick is swallowing a whole mouse — certainly a meal bigger than its own head.

Which parent is making the food runs? Raptor expert John Davis advises that it’s virtually impossible to tell adult male from female. I saw mostly one bird doing the feeding, and this went on any time of day I happened to be there. At one point I briefly saw and filmed both parents at the nest. Here’s a still image of that moment.

White-tailed Kite parents (Elanus leucurus)

Oddly enough, at that moment the bird on the right was in the process of removing another stick from the nest, as I filmed last week:

A key question: how many chicks are there? It was easy to see one. Often you could see two, and occasionally three. Very rarely, at mealtime, there were lumps and bumps in the background indicative of a fourth. Not until yesterday did I succeed in getting all four heads into a picture. They look a little like a feathered version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:

Four White-tailed Kite chicks (Elanus leucurus)

I don’t know when they were hatched — very probably not on the same day, judging by the disparity in their sizes — so I can’t guess at how long it will be before they are mature enough to leave the nest. The books say 35-38 days. All the nestlings are testing their wings, but none of them has yet developed significant tail feathers, which would seem essential for flight.

Very good news is the scarcity of American Crows around the nest. For unknown reasons, the crow population has migrated away or crashed. A few remain, but none showed even remote interest in the nest.

Unfortunately there is no vantage point around the nest where a live bird cam could be installed, like the peregrines on the Campanile or the osprey on the WWII ship in Richmond. So this “Kite Cam” taken from the ground, canned and edited, will have to do.

Here are a few other still images I like:

Nestmates — three of the four White-tailed Kite chicks
Parent takes off on next food run — White-tailed Kite adult and chicks
Under the parent’s wing — White-tailed Kite parent and chicks
The future — White-tailed Kite chick

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2 thoughts on “Kite Cam

  • Pingback: Kite Cam 2

  • May 1, 2020 at 10:25 pm
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    These are remarkable! how did you get so high up? some of them look at eye-level!
    Maybe the parent threw out the stick cause it’s getting too crowded in their with 4 teenagers at home!
    i saw that one chick swallow the mouse whole! unbelievable!

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