Sunday, May 5, 2013

Now THAT's a Swallow Tail!

I was standing around in the parking lot after our university's commencement when I spied a large bird approaching, gliding on a steady breeze (there is always a steady breeze blowing across that end of campus). Given that we have a rather large population of turkey vultures, I didn't think anything of it at first. But as it got closer, I could tell it was not a buzzard. It was too light underneath, and something wasn't right about its tail. I retrieved my Nikon from the car and started shooting. My colleagues laughed a bit because I've had a bad limp all week due to sciatica, but that pain was completely forgotten in the excitement of the moment! Here is what I captured:

 Hmmmm...looks like a big gull
 But it has a swallow tail!
 Whoa...I've never seen one of these...
 Color "corrected" to show you the contrast
 It actually manipulates that tail to stay on course while gliding
 Magnificent wings! About a four foot span...a little smaller than our turkey vultures
 Just gliding along, landing gear up
Identity: Swallow-tailed Kite!

The Swallow-tailed Kite is more of an equatorial bird, generally ranging into the Deep South states of the US during summer, then heading back down to equatorial South America for winter. I am told that they do ride the winds up from the Gulf to our neck of the woods sometimes, where they find swamps and fens and lots of insects on which to munch. Still, this was probably a once in a lifetime encounter!

For more on these or any birds, see:


NCmountainwoman said...

What a sight! And lucky you. I've never seen one and I'm a bit green with envy.

Pixel Peeper said...

I have to say that I've never seen one either. According to your link, they breed in Florida in the summer - I'll have to keep an eye out for them. There is a nature preserve with marshy areas nearby, they might show up there.

Thanks for the tip and the pictures!

Jayne said...

Such a cool, cool sighting! Lucky you!

Nance said...

You really are a devoted birder. Good pics and a good catch.

Carolina Linthead said...

Nance, I also spend a lot of time talking to cows on my way back and forth to school :-)