Kites High

This video combines two sightings. The first was on 12/24, when two White-tailed Kites shared a treetop in the forested grove planted in the mid-80s by native plant gardener Charli Danielsen. Then segue to 12/28, when a solo kite perched atop a different evergreen nearby in the same grove. Both sightings involved mature birds; that is, they did not have the cinnamon bib that marks the juveniles.

The birds in these sightings did look down and around occasionally but hunting was not foremost on their minds. The business at hand was preening. The video condenses more than 45 minutes of the birds grooming various parts of their plumage, frequently burying their heads in puffs of feathers. Like other birds I’ve watched, they preened solo, even when a sibling was near. As a result, the crown of the head and the collar went ungroomed, out of beak reach. How they keep parasites off those unguarded spots I can’t imagine. They would seem to benefit from grooming socially, like monkeys and many other mammals.

White-tailed Kites nest high up in evergreen trees. I wonder if these birds were checking out the forested grove as a possible nest site come balmier weather. Also curious were a handful of American Crows, who perched nearby and in one instance made a near pass at a kite. The crows have long had a presence in this grove, just as they have in the Monterey Cypress border along the hotel parking lot. If the kites try to nest here they face a battle with the very aggressive crow flocks — appropriately labeled a murder of crows.

White-tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus)

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