Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2008-08b

Common name:

Mississippi Kite

Scientific name: Ictinia mississippiensis
Date: 5/5/2008
Time: 835 pm
Length of time observed: 1 minute
Number: 1
Age: adult
Sex: unknown
Location: Rendezvous Park, Logan, Utah
County: Cache
Latilong: na
Elevation: na
Distance to bird: 50 m? overhead
Optical equipment: Leica 8x50 Trinovid binoculars
Weather: Warm, calm, clear.
Light Conditions: Seen at sunset, but light was sufficient enough to see color and contrast on the birds we had been watching when the kite flew over.
Description:        Size of bird: Crow-sized
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Slim raptor
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Gray, little contrast
(Description:)            Bill Type: not seen well
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Crow-sized. Long, narrow pointed wings. Wings very narrow, particularly at base, where they attach to body. Body and wings gray, but not as dark gray as tail. Did not see white secondaries, which should be visible on top of wing. Did not get a long look at head, but could not see the black/dark gray helmet typical of Peregrine Falcon adults; saw bird flying away.Dark gray square cut tail.
Song or call & method of delivery: None heard that could be attributed to bird.
Behavior: Flew over observers twice. First time flew north, landed in top of mature willows (cottonwoods?); flew south back over Ryan and I ~5-10 min later, to land in top of mature willow stand on 600 W. Presumably looking for suitable roost. Did not fly particularly fast.
Habitat: Landed in large mature willow trees twice; Rendezvous Park is riparian woodland adjacent to Logan Golf Course.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
White-tailed Kite eliminated because although the bird in question was a kite, it was gray overall, not white, and had a gray square tail, not the white tail of a White-tailed Kite.

Swallow-tailed Kite eliminated because the bird in question had a gray, square cut tail, rather than the long forked tail diagnostic for Swallow-tailed Kite. Also, the bird in question lacked the bold high contrast black-and-white plumage of Swallow-tailed Kite.

Peregrine Falcon eliminated on basis of size, plumage, body structure, behavior. Bird in question was too slim for Peregrine falcon. Peregrine adults are gray above with black helmet, do not have square cut tail. Peregines have powerful elastic wingbeat that ripples down wing; wingbeats in this bird did not match the distinctive wingbeat of Peregrine. Also, wings were too narrow at the point of attachment for Peregrine Falcon.

Merlin eliminated on basis of plumage, structure and behavior. As with Peregrine, the bird in question was too slim for Merlin. Also, Merlin wings have broad point of attachment to body and are triangular; this birds wings did not have broad point of attachment to body. Merlin females (and first-year birds?) have black/dark checkered pattern underneath. Adult male Merlins have streaked breast, but wings still have dark checkerboard pattern underneath. Merlins are also lightning fast and direct in their flight. This bird was light/whitish underneath, and although not slow, was far too sluggish and lazy in flight to be a Merlin.

American Kestrel was eliminated because although Kestrels have have narrow wings, they are not grey, nor do they have dark grey/blackish square cut tail. Bird in question was too big to be a kestrel.

Buteo and Accipiter spp. eliminated because of overall body structure.

Northern Harrier eliminated because bird was too small, was gray overall, and wings were pointed with a dark gray square cut tail. Northern Harrier males are whitish below with black wingtips and small amounts of rufous spotting and streaking on breast and belly. This bird lacked the rufous and the black wingtips; it was uniform gray underneath, with a darker gray tail. Also the tail was not long enough for Northern Harrier.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
Have previous experience with Mississippi Kite. Have seen several in Alabama and Mississippi at a fall hawkwatch at Fort Morgan, Alabama(August-October). Have also seen Swallow-tailed Kite, once at previously mentioned Ft Morgan, Alabama hawkwatch. No experience with Snail Kite, but not aware of any Snail Kite records away from Florida. Cannot remember how many times I have seen White-tailed Kite, but saw one at Ash Meadows NWR, southern Nevada only a few days after seeing the Mississippi Kite.

Have 22 yrs of birding experience, including lots of experience identifying and counting tens of thousands of migrant raptors for HawkWatch International, Hawk Mt Santcuary, Southeastern Michigan Raptor Research, and Idaho Bird Observatory, as well as the previously mentioned Fort Morgan hawkwatch.
References consulted: Sibley Guide to Birds, after sighting.
Description from: Notes made later
Observer: Craig R. Fosdick
Observer's address: PO Box 443, Logan, Utah, 84323-0443
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Ryan O' Donnell
Date prepared: 6/20/08
Additional material:  Notes written ~1 hr after sighting.
Additional Comments: This report typed up primarily on the basis of notes written 1 hr after seeing bird, on 5 May 2008.