Friday, December 30, 2016

White-tailed Kite's Unusual Prey

I have been birding the trails of Santa Carina the last few days. What I saw yesterday was quite exciting. Two White-tailed Kites were perched on a dead tree on the west side of the north lookout area! Could we have another nest this year at the Santa Carina trails? Here are some photos of the pair of White-tailed Kites at Santa Carina trail as they hunt, get prey, and consume prey. A very interesting sighting of one of the White-tailed Kites coming back to their tree with an unusual prey. I have never seen a Kite grab a bird as prey before. I would love to hear from anyone that has seen them with this unusual prey.

Walking up to the north lookout area on the Santa Carina trail on the south side of San Elijo Lagoon, I noticed two White-tailed Kites perched on the large dead tree. The dead tree that was once the "nest-tree" two seasons back has collapsed. The other "dead tree" is still standing about 30ft from this area, now visited by the pair of White tailed Kites.
One of the Kite flies off the tree and circles the area.

I believe this one to be the male.

Both male and female look alike. White-tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus measures 15 inches long with a wingspan of 39 inches.

These are small hawks that hunt from the air hovering as they search for prey and floating down silently to capture them.
He circles around the area and flies back to the dead tree.
A good look at the underwings

A look at the topside.

He flies in near the female and she has a lot to say. Karrrrrr!

As one floats to his perch, the other appears to be quite vocal.

The landing is slow and deliberate. As if he is showing off his flying skills. The female watches.

More calling out by the kite that is already perched. I believe that one to be female.

The male lands but keeps his wings semi-open.
The female appears to be watching intently . I'm sure she must be impressed with the beautiful wings.
A nice photo opportunity of both kites in one frame.

The kite on the left takes off again as the kite on the right starts to vocalize again. Probably telling him to go hunt... he needs to bring her something to eat, a "love token" She is starving for a snack!

The female watches the male search all over for prey. He hunts for a few minutes around the area and soon gives up to go hunt over the hill towards Rancho Santa Fe... he disappears out of sight.

The kite that stayed on the dead tree (which I call female), takes off and heads straight towards me but I could not focus my camera fast enough to capture any shots. Only when she stops to hover nearby, I finally get a few shots.

She hovers looking for prey.

Shooting into the light.

Looks around and takes off towards the banks facing the lagoon to our south.

Within a minute, she comes flying back and has a prey tucked under her tail base.
The prey is visible in this shot.

My goodness, it is not a vole but a bird prey.

I have never seen a kite hunt for birds before. This may be an unusual prey captured by a White-tailed Kite.

The kite heads for the dead tree. The prey appears to be the size of a sparrow.
The kite lands with her prey in talon.

The tree is quite far from the bank where I am positioned.

We can see the prey's tail and wings in this shot.
She starts to de-feather her prey.
Starts to consume.

As she consumes the bird prey the other kite which I believe to be the male returns with a  vole, their usual fare, a rodent that looks like a large mouse with a short tail.

The male lands with the huge vole in his talons. A love token to his lady? But it is too late, he was gone too long and she was too hungry to wait for his return from Rancho Santa Fe. The female has hunted and captured and now is consuming her bird prey.
He sees that she is busy eating her prey and decides to eat this prey himself.

He looks around and waits before he starts to eat.

The female is almost finished eating the bird.

As soon as the female finishes her meal and starts to preen, the male starts to eat his prey.

Opens the vole at the neck and pulls the entrails out.


Appears to be enjoying his meal.

After consuming his vole, he also preens and relaxes on the dead tree. I'm hoping that the pair will make a nest in this tree and we will be treated to watching them raise another clutch of offspring this year. Time for me to walk back towards the parking area.
Almost to the entrance of the Santa Carina trail, I saw a very busy male Anna's Hummingbird protecting his territory.

Anna's Hummingbird, Calypte anna measures 4 inches long with a wingspan of 5.25 inches. He spots a rival. Lots of vocalizing!

Flashes his colors.

The flash of color is all controlled by the male hummer, directing his flashes towards his challenger as a warning and also as a display to attract  females.
He moves his metallic colored feathers to capture the sunlight to signal a warning.

There is always someone to chase. Off he goes.

Another chase. This goes on all day. It signals their breeding season has begun!

He spots a challenger!

Focused on his target.

Comes back to his lookout perch and keeps a constant watch for foes.

Gives me a lookover. What a cutie.
But soon searches the sky for more threats to his dominion.

This time of the year, a male hummer may let you get quite close because he is so busy looking for his challenger and intruders that come into his territory. We are just a nuisance to him and mostly ignored. Another beautiful birding day at the lagoon. Time to get home.
A cutie sitting on a lemonade plant.

Last shot of the cutie as he sticks out his tongue.
Have a very Happy New Year Everyone!