Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hook-billed Kite nest - Monday June 28, 2010

Bill Clark, Mark Conway, and Mike Miller came out to help locate the nest. Bill and Mark bushwacked into the thicket (with the permission of TNC, of course!) and after laboring for at least 3/4 mile, Mark Conway found the nest - very close to where they entered the thicket. There was one chick (1-2 is normal) and the chick was mostly grown. Here you can see it sitting in the nest facing left - only the eye is really visible.

Needless to say the Hook-billed Kite pair was not pleased with their activities, but they quickly resumed feeding after we cleared out of the area of the nest. Here's the female again.

Hook-billed Kite - June 26, 2010 evening

Saturday night I went back out and saw the male make three feeding trips between 6 PM and 6:20 PM. I've had to lighten these up a bit. He's very dark gray, but you can see the barring on the belly - definitely not a black morph bird. He didn't reappear before 7 PM when I left. I did not see the female.

Hook-billed Kites - June 26, 2010

You know, it's hot here in the summer in deep South Texas, and a bit boring bird-wise until migration gets going again. It's a great time to watch bird behavior or go hiking if you like solitude... and you do it early in the morning.

So I'm walking into Chihuahua Woods, a TNC property west of Mission, Texas on June 26. I've been meaning to come for some time, and just haven't been able to make it. It's about 7:30 AM, and the day is going to get really hot really soon. It's already probably 80F and humid. I walk about 300 feet into the property and I see this bird fly overhead at treetop height.

It's a Hook-billed Kite, an adult male. Yepper. Quite the handsome bird! And the weird thing is that it was carrying a snail! I wasn't all that suprised to see him - I'd seen him here in March, but just once. I wasn't quite ready for the next thing I saw.

A female Hook-billed Kite, also adult, also carrying a snail.
And a few minutes later, she went back out, without the snail.

Repeat several times, snails in, no snails out.

The local Northern Mockingbirds and Western Kingbirds weren't impressed that the diet of these birds is almost entirely snails.

Hmmm. So I got on the phone to Bill Clark, raptor expert and valley resident. We discussed Hook-billed Kite behavior. I was surprised to learn that the adults shuttle all the snails for the chicks in their bill. They carry the snail in the shell to a feeding perch near the nest, extract the snail, and then carry the snail meat to the nest. Yum! I also called the landowner and arranged an expedition to look for the nest. Stay tuned!