Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2014-013

Common name:

Mississippi Kite

Scientific name: Ictinia mississippiensis
Date: May 4, 2014
Time: 3:50 pm
Length of time observed: 20-25 seconds
Number: 1
Age: Adult
Sex: undetermined
Location: foothills Just south of Parley's Canyon
County: Salt Lake
Elevation: 5200 ft.
Distance to bird: approximately 200 yards
Optical equipment: Zeiss Victory FL 8x42 binoculars
Weather: Clear, windy
Light Conditions: bright
Description:        Size of bird: medium sized compared to most raptors, smaller than Red-tailed Hawk, larger than Sharp-shinned Hawk
(Description:)       Basic Shape: narrow, pointed wings
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: gray and blackish
(Description:)            Bill Type: could not see but assume hooked
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Flight style was fairly direct and very buoyant. The wing beats were deep, easy, and fluid. The wings were held flat when soaring. The bird was in adult plumage, showing gray overall, with a pale (whitish) head, blackish tail, whitish secondaries, and rufous hints to the darker primaries from below. Shape was slim overall, with somewhat long, slim, sharply tapered wings, small head, and medium length tail the flared outward at the tip.
(see drawing)
Song or call & method of delivery:  
Behavior: soaring, flapping, gliding
Habitat: in flight above open grassy hillside
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
The most similar in structure and plumage to an adult Mississippi Kite is an adult Peregrine Falcon, but Mississippi Kite shows a slim build, slim head, and a long narrow-based tail that flares at the tip. Unlike Peregrine Falcon, adult Mississippi Kite has a pale head, and a grayish underside from below with blackish primaries and tail. Adult Peregrine Falcon has a black head, checkered underwings, and a finely barred with blackish belly. An adult Mississippi Kite can possibly be confused for adult male Northern Harrier, but Mississippi Kite is more lightly built with narrower wings, stiffer (gull-like but more fluid) and a shorter tail with a flared tip. They also lack a prominent dihedral and do not teeter from side to side in flight like Harrier. Adult male Northern Harrier is grayish on top, but brilliant white below with black-tipped outer primaries and secondaries, very unlike an adult Mississippi Kite.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
Extensive experience with all North American raptors. Author of 3 books and numerous published articles on identification of North American raptors. Have studied Mississippi Kites since the late 1980's and have made several trips in the past few years to study and photograph Mississippi Kites exclusively.
References consulted: None
Description from: From memory
Observer: Jerry Liguori
Observer's address:  
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird:  
Date prepared: May 6, 2014
Additional material: Drawing