Wednesday, June 30, 2010

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!