Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2015-22

Common name:

Mississippi Kite

Scientific name: Ictinia mississippiensis
Date: 7 July 2015
Time: 12:30 PM
Length of time observed: 5 minutes, though for only the first 30 seconds could I observe it well enough (without binoculars) to note field marks.
Number: 1
Age: adult
Sex: not known
Location: Park City, Hwy 224 and Holiday Ranch Loop Rd.
County: Summit
Latilong: 40.668, -111.513
Elevation: 7000 ft
Distance to bird: Minimum - 100 feet, maximum - a quarter mile
Optical equipment: none
Weather: overcast, storms coming in from the north
Light Conditions: Mid-day, high overcast, with storm clouds off to the north that appeared to be moving towards us but were still some distance away.
Description:        Size of bird: There were no other birds near it until it had drifted away and was then being pestered by two small passerines. Even without a close species for comparison, it was obviously smaller than a Red-tailed Hawk or an Osprey, and larger than an American Kestrel.
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Small headed. Falcon-shaped with long, pointed wings and a somewhat narrow, squared-off tail -- typical shape for a kite.
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Black and gray
(Description:)            Bill Type: I didn't notice as I was focused on the wings and tail.
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
The kite was first seen as it soared towards me, perhaps 100 feet high. It passed directly overhead, where it lingered briefly, then headed off towards the west across Hwy 224 and then northwest down the valley. The wings showed a bump along the leading edge of the primaries, which I took to be a short P10, but it never flaired this feather when nearby to make it obviously so. It never spread its primaries to show "fingers" as a buteo or accipiter does.

The undersides of the primaries were black, while the primary and secondary underwing coverts were pale (gray?). The secondaries were also lighter in appearance than the primaries, and they even appeared lighter than the underwing coverts - but that could, I suppose, have been due to the fact that the secondaries were more transparent (only one feather thick) and I was viewing the bird from below. The tail was black, and only slightly fanned. It showed a very subtle notch at the center of the rectrices.

When the bird was close to me I was only able to see it from below. By the time it got further away when I might have been able to see its upper wings, it was beyond my ability to see it clearly.
Song or call & method of delivery: No call
Behavior: The bird soared continually, never doing so much as leisurely flapping, let along a power flight as is typical of falcons. Once when it was soaring far off, and after two songbirds had given up their pestering chase, it mad a sudden, brief movement (dive) as if to go after something flying near it in the air, but I could not "see" what that object was.
Habitat: Initially soaring over McLeod Creek
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Peregrine Falcon never "soars" continuously as this bird did. Nor does it have the black primaries - pale wing covert pattern of this bird.

White-tailed Kite has a white tail (not black), and shows a distal black spot on the underwing coverts.

Swallow-tailed Kite has a deeply forked tail even as a juvenile. It also has black secondaries.

Northern Harrier lacks the black primaries and black tail of this bird. It also soars much differently, with spread primaries.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I've seen Mississippi Kites several times before in Texas - most recently, an adult in May 2015 at Balcones Canyonland NWR.
References consulted: No references were consulted for the descriptive and behavioral portions of this documentation. Sibley's eGuide was consulted for the similar species portion.
Description from: Notes made later
Observer: Paul Budde
Observer's address: 4612 Colfax Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55419
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird: No one else was present, aside from my non-birding wife.
Date prepared: 8 July 2015
Additional material:  
Additional_Comments: After viewing the bird yesterday early afternoon, I submitted details via eBird in the late afternoon. I am using those details (checklist as the basis for what I've included in this documentation.

Unfortunately, I was on a cycling trip when I found this kite and did not have binoculars, let alone my camera. (We were taking a lunch break at the location where the kite appeared.) So, this is an optics-less observation, and I understand the implications of that for the review process. Still, as I was able to watch the bird approach me, and then it flew directly overhead at a fairly low elevation, I believe I was able to get a good look at the bird, and thought it was worth reporting to the UBRC.