Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Mississippi kite
Ictinia mississippiensis

 

Taxonomy
Occurence in Illinois
Status
Habitat associations
Guilds
Food-habits
Environmental associations
Life history
Management practices
References


TAXONOMY

 

  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Falconiformes
  • Family: Accipitridae
  • Genus: Ictinia
  • Species: Ictinia mississippiensis
  • Authority: Wilson

Comments on taxonomy:
Type: Amer. Orn., Vol. 3, 1811, p. 80, pl. 25, fig. 1; a few miles below Natchez, MS. *04*. Although the American Ornithologist's Union doesn't recognize subspecies, some consider eastern and western forms, each with a different population trend *04,07*

 


OCCURENCE IN ILLINOIS

In Illinois, it is an uncommon wanderer and local summer resident near the Mississippi River in the southern counties and is a rare wanderer into central Illinois*03*

 


STATUS

Items in bold indicate applicable categories
Forest Service Categories: S = recommended for regional sensitive status, F = forest listed species, M = management indicator species

Federal Status:

Endangered Threatened Proposed for listing
Candidate for proposal Recovery plan approved Recovery plan received (USFWS)
Recovery plan in preparation Under notice of review Delisted
Migratory EPA indicator Forest Serv.- Shawnee species (S)

State Status:

Endangered Threatened Proposed

Other:

Game Furbearer Nongame protected
Sportfish Commercial Pest None of the above

Comments on status:
Common in southern Illinois in late 1800's, declined in early 1900's, recently appears to be reoccupying former range *01,03* this species general status throughout its range is improving *07*. Factors cited for the decline are destruction of riparian habitat for agricultural use, logging, shooting, egg collecting, stream channelization *06,07* this species is still at low population levels in Illinois *03*

 


HABITAT ASSOCIATIONS

Items in bold indicate applicable categories

General habitat:

Unknown Terrestrial Aquatic Riparian

USFS timber inventory forest size class:

Unknown Unstocked Seedling Sapling
Seedling/sapling Pole Mature Over mature

Land use and land cover:

Unknown   Urban Residential
Commercial
Industrial
Transportation, communication
Complex industrial/commercial
Mixed
Other
Agricultural Crop, pasture
Orchards, groves, nurseries
Feedlot
Other
Rangeland Herbaceous
Shrub and brush
Mixed
Forestland Deciduous
Evergreen
Mixed
Water Stream
Lake
Reservoir
Bay
Wetland Forest
Non-forest
Barren Salt flat
Beach
Sand
Rock
Mine
Transit
Mix

 


Forest cover types:

Cover typeStructural stageCanopy closureSeason
Silver maple-American elm Mature
(9" dia. & 100 yrs. old)
Unknown Unknown
Cottonwood Mature
(9" dia. & 100 yrs. old)
Unknown Unknown
Elm-ash-cottonwood Mature
(9" dia. & 100 yrs. old)
Unknown Unknown

Associated tree species:

  • Cottonwood
  • Sweetgum

National wetland inventory classifications: No records.

Comments on species-habitat associations:
Mississippi kite nests were associated in Illinois with sycamore, maple, willow, cottonwood forests and with sweetgum, oak, elm, boxelder, cottonwood, hickory, maple forests; all in mature bottomland areas *01* dominant species (in descending order) in Tennessee were cottonwood, sweetgum, sycamore, s. red oak, bald cypress, elm *06* no particular tree species was important but rather the age (mature) of the stand is important *06*.

Important plant and animal association: Large flying insects comprise this kite's chief and in some areas sole food item *12*.

High value habitats

HabitatStructural stageSeason
Floodplain forest Mature
(9" dia. & 100 yrs. old)
Spring/summer
Prairie Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
Spring/summer
Savanna Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
Spring/summer
Agricultural field Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
Spring/summer
Cropland Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
Spring/summer
Successional field Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
Spring/summer

Species-habitat interrelations: Mississippi kites require mature bottomland forests for nesting *01, 06* and open areas of annual vegetation in addition to mature trees for foraging *01*. In Tenn. they were found mostly over mature bottomland forests and infrequently over open areas *06*. In Illinois, kites require at least two major habitat types: wooded tracts for nesting and open fields or prairies for feeding *03*. In Union Co. in Illinois, kites used mature, mixed bottomland forest for nesting and fallow fields, mixed forest, marshes, or other openings for feeding *01*. This species may reuse old nest sites *03*.

 


GUILDS

Feed-guilding:

HabitatStructural stageSeasonFeed-guilds
Floodplain forest Mature
(9" dia. & 100 yrs. old)
Spring/summer Air- arthropods
Prairie Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
Spring/summer Air- arthropods
Svavanna Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
Spring/summer Air- arthropods
Agricultural field Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
Spring/summer Air- arthropods
Successional field Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
Spring/summer Air- arthropods

Comments on feed-guilding:
The mississippi kite feeds so largely on flying insects that it can subsist above all types of country from open prairie to continuous forest *12*.

Breed-guilding:

HabitatStructural stageSeasonBreed-Guilds
Floodplain forest Mature
(9" dia. & 100 yrs. old)
Spring/summer Tree canopy, branches of broad-leaved deciduous trees
Tree canopy, branches of needle-leaved evergreen trees

Comments on breed-guilding:
Mississippi kite breed in heavily wooded areas and apparently prefers to nest in the tops of the tallest trees available *13*.

 


FOOD-HABITS

Trophic level is CARNIVORE

Food itemLife stage/plant part
Insecta Unknown
Odonata (dragonflies, damselflies) Unknown
Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets, cockroaches) Unknown
Homoptera (cicadas, aphids) Unknown
Coleoptera (beetles) Unknown
Lepidoptera (butterflies, moths) Adult
Salientia (frogs, toads) See comments
Salientia (frogs, toads) Unknown
Sauria (lizards, skinks, iguana) Unknown
Serpentes (snakes) Unknown
Hirundinidae (martins, swallows) Unknown
Carrion Not applicable
Important:
Insecta Unknown
Juvenile:
Odonata (dragonflies, damselflies) Unknown
Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets, cockroaches) Unknown
Homoptera (cicadas, aphids) Unknown
Coleoptera (beetles) Unknown
Salientia (frogs, toads) Unknown
Adult:
Insecta Unknown
Odonata (dragonflies, damselflies) Unknown
Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets, cockroaches) Unknown
Homoptera (cicadas, aphids) Unknown
Coleoptera (beetles) Unknown
Lepidoptera (butterflies, moths) Adult
Hirundinidae (martins, swallows) Unknown
Carrion Not applicable

Comments on food habits: 
General: Food in southern Illinois consisted of insects although they capture a variety of vertebrates and scavenge road-kills in the great plains, *01,07* feed mostly on insects but sometimes small snakes, lizards, and frogs *10*. Chitinous insect parts are cast up as pellets *12*.
Juvenile: Newly hatched kites were fed by regurgitation and 1-wk old kites were fed small pieces of insects and small vertebrates, 2-wk old kites were fed entire insects *01*
Adult: No comments.


ENVIRONMENTAL ASSOCIATIONS

General:

  • Flood plain: see comments
  • Ecotones: woodland/crop fields
  • Ecotones: woodland/old fields
  • Ecotones: woodland/water
  • Ecotones: woodland/grassland
  • Ecotones: see comments
  • Pastures: see comments
  • Grassland: see comments
  • Meadows: see comments
  • Old fields: see comments
  • Hardwood forest: see comments
  • Large lone trees: see comments
  • Snags: see comments
  • Unknown

Limiting:

  • Flood plain: see comments
  • Ecotones: woodland/crop fields
  • Ecotones: woodland/old fields
  • Ecotones: woodland/water
  • Ecotones: woodland/grassland
  • Pastures: see comments
  • Grassland: see comments
  • Meadows: see comments
  • Old fields: see comments
  • Hardwood forest: see comments

Egg

  • Hardwood forest: see comments
  • Unknown

Feeding juvenile:

  • Flood plain: see comments

Resting juvenile:

  • Flood plain: see comments

Feeding adult:

  • Pastures: see comments
  • Grassland: see comments
  • Meadows: see comments
  • Old fields: see comments
  • Hardwood forest: see comments

Resting adult:

  • Flood plain: see comments
  • Large lone trees: see comments
  • Snags: see comments

Breeding adult:

  • Flood plain: see comments
  • Ecotones: see comments
  • Hardwood forest: see comments

Comments on environmental associations:
General: Mature bottomland forests interspersed with open areas such as agricultural land, open fields, and water seem important for this species in Illinois *01*. In Tennessee, Mississippi kites were most frequently associated with forest as opposed to open areas despite the fact that farm fields comprised more than 90% of the study area *06*. Nests in Illinois were located near openings at edge of dense woods *01*.
Feeding juvenile: Assume nestlings are fed in nest and upon fledging adopt feeding habits of adults. See feeding adult.
Resting juvenile: Nestlings rest in nest and upon fledging young roost near nest finally adopting roosting habits of adult *12*. See resting adult.
Feeding adult: Mississippi kites forage over open areas such as agricultural fields, open fields of annual vegetation, and bottomland forests in Illinois. *01* Preferred to feed over large bottomland forests in Tennessee *06*.
Resting adult: Several hours a day were spent perched, usually on a dead branch or snag that provided visibility in most directions *01*.
Breeding adult: Nests in illinois were built at edges of bottomland woods *01*.


LIFE HISTORY

Origin: Native *04*.

Physical description: Adult-falcon shaped hawk with black tail, pale gray head and underparts; dark gray mouth; black lores, primaries; size - 14.5 in. length, 35 in. wingspan; weight 10 oz.*11*

Reproduction: Though migrates in flocks appear to be mated upon arrival. Very little courtship display. Nest building begins about 1 week after arrival. Male observed to bring female materials with which she constructs the nest *12*. Nest placement may range from 10-100 ft. above ground. Nest is a shallow flimsy cup made of twigs and lined with leaves. Breeding occurs in may and eggs are laid in late May. Clutch size is usually 2 (1-3) bluish white eggs approx. 41 x 34 mm. Incubation occurs in late May to late June for 29-31 days. Both sexes incubate *01, 12*. Average 1 offspring per reproductive period which is one year in length. Clutch size averaged 1 in southern Illinois *01*. Kite pairs may lay replacement clutch. If nesting colonially, breeding usually synchronized. Young spend approximately 34 days in nest. Both parents feed young, either directly if small or by disgorging a mass of insects in the nest for the young to consume *01,12*. Fledged young are fed on wing. *12*. Mississippi kites are capable of breeding at 1 year *07*.

Behavior: Most active 1000-1400 and 1600-1800 and most often seen on wing *01,12*. Little information on migration or winter ecology *07* winters in s. Texas and Florida south to Guatemala & Paraguay *04,12*. Nests in dense woods at edge near openings *01*. Often flocks and feeds at a distance from its nest *07*.Known to feed on wing though food sometimes taken to perch, also sally-feeds *12*. May follow large mammals to cafeed on flushed insects *12*.

Limiting factors: Food and nesting sites do not appear to be limiting *07*. Pesticides do not seem to affect reproduction *09*. Floodplain forests are limiting because of their continued disappearance in IL.

Population parameters: Suffered decline in early 1900's in Illinois *01* and throughout its range, especially in the east *07*, now reoccupying former range and expanding its range *07*.

 


MANAGEMENT PRACTICES

Beneficial:

  • Maintaining undisturbed/undeveloped areas
  • Maintaining natural areas and nature preserves
  • Developing/maintaining edge (ecotones)
  • Maintaining habitat diversity
  • Maintaining unique or special habitat features (wetlands, snags, caves, cliffs, talises, etc.
  • Preserving endangered species habitat
  • Preserving sensitive species habitat
  • Performing special survey prior to prescription
  • Performing field survey prior to prescription
  • Controlling land use and human activities
  • Controlling pollution
  • Navigational improvements such as channelization and locks and dams
  • Dredging
  • Developing/maintaining lakes and ponds
  • Developing/maintaining wetlands
  • Protecting existing wetlands
  • Developing/maintaining riparian habitat
  • Agricultural practices other than those included in ifwis list (see comments)
  • Develop/maintain prairie
  • Cutting and deforestation
  • Forest protection
  • Developing/maintaining forest openings
  • Developing/maintaining mature hardwood forest
  • Maintaining forests
  • Prohibiting hunting
  • Restricting human disturbance during migration, breeding, and nesting

Adverse:

  • Channelization
  • Removing bank vegetation
  • Applying pesticide on agricultural land
  • Agricultural practices other than those included in ifwis list (see comments)
  • Strip mining
  • Site preparation for revegetation of mined land- establishing noncommercial forest
  • Cutting and deforestation
  • Clearcutting forests
  • Application of insecticides

Existing:

  • Prohibiting hunting

Comments on management practices:
Mississippi kites require extensive mature bottomland forest interspersed with openings, such areas with nesting birds should be undisturbed *03*. Since kites feed heavily on insects, unwarrented use of insecticides should be controlled *03*. Clearing for row crops has adversely affected this species through loss of habitat *06*. Although clearing has had a positive effect by providing additional areas for foraging *07* shooting has apparently adversely affected populations in past *07*. Kite nesting colonies tolerate extensive human activity, even some tree cutting *07*.

 


REFERENCES

0. SULOWAY, LIANE. ILL. NAT. HIST. SURV., NAT. RES. BLDG., 607 E. PEABODY, CHAMPAIGN, IL. 61801. 217-333-6846.

1. HARDIN, M.E., J.W. HARDIN, AND W.D. KLIMSTRA. 1977. OBSERVATIONS OF NESTING MISSISSIPPI KITES IN SOUTHERN ILLINOIS. TRANS. ILL. STATE. ACAD. SCI. 70:341-348.

2. BOHLEN, H.D. 1978. AN ANNOTATED CHECK-LIST OF THE BIRDS OF ILLINOIS. ILL. STATE MUS. POP. SCI. SERIES VOL. 9. 154 PP.

3. BOWLES, M. AND R.H. THOM. 1981. ENDANGERED AND THREATENED BIRDS. IN: BOWLES, M. (ED.). ENDANGERED AND THREATENED VERTEBRATE ANIMALS AND VASCULAR PLANTS OF ILLINOIS. 189 PP.

4. AMERICAN ORNITHOLOGIST'S UNION. 1957. THE A.O.U. CHECKLIST OF NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS. LORD BALTIMORE PRESS, BALTIMORE, MD. 691 PP.

5. ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION. 1982. ILLINOIS LIST OF ENDANGERED AND THREATENED VERTEBRATE SPECIES. ADMINISTRATIVE CODE, CHAPTER 1, SUBCHAPTER C, PART 1010.

6. KALLA, P.I. AND F. J. ALSOP III. 1983. THE DISTRIBUTION, HABITAT PREFERENCE, AND STATUS OF THE MISSISSIPPI KITE IN TENNESSEE. AMER. BIRDS 37:146-149.

7. PARKER, J.W. AND J.C. OGDEN. 1979. THE RECENT HISTORY AND STATUS OF THE MISSSISSIPPI KITE. AMER. BIRDS 33:119-129.

8. FITCH, HJ.S. 1963. OBSERVATIONS ON THE MISSISSIPPI KITE IN SOUTHWESTERN KANSAS. UNIV. KANSAS PUBL. MUS. NAT. HIST. 12:503-519.

9. PARKER, J.W. 1976. PESTICIDES AND EGGSHELL THINNING IN THE MISSISSIPPI KITE. J. WILDL. MANAGEMENT 40:243-248.

10. BENT, A.C. 1937. LIFE HISTORIES OF NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS OF PREY. ORDER FALCONIFORMES (PART 1). U.S. NAT. MUS. BULL. 167. 409 PP.

11. OBERHOLSER, H.C. 1974. THE BIRD LIFE OF TEXAS. VOL. 1. UNIV. TEXAS PRESS, AUSTIN. 530 PP.

12. BROWN, L. AND D. AMADON. 1968. EAGLES, HAWKS AND FALCONS OF THE WORLD. VOL. 1 MCGRAW-HILL BOOK CO., NEW YORK 414 P.

13. HARRISON, H. 1975. A FIELD GUIDE TO BIRDS' NESTS. HOUGHTON MIFFLIN CO. BOSTON 257 P.

14. U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICE. 1983. CODE OF FEDERAL REGULATIONS. TITLE 50. WILDLIFE AND FISHERIES. CHAPTER 1 PP 11-18. 50CFR10.13. LIST OF MIGRATORY BIRDS. SPECIAL PUBL. FEDERAL REGISTER. GENERAL SERVICES ADMIN. OCTOBER 1.

15. ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION. 1980. CONSERVATION LAWS. CH.61. WILDLIFE. ART II. PAR 2.2. REPRINTED FROM ILLINOIS REVISED STATUTES, 1979. WEST PUBL. CO., ST. PAUL, MN. 120 P.

 


 

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