It’s usually a joy to see Mississippi kites flying through the Kansas sky. These graceful birds of prey often soar high overhead, sometimes as many as 30 or more in a group, as they snatch assorted flying insects from the air.

It’s not quite as much fun, though, when the birds are dive-bombing you while you cross your backyard or walk down a sidewalk.

Mississippi kites are some of the most territorial birds in Kansas and become very protective when they have young in their nests. Most times their dives pull up a few feet short of hitting the perceived intruder. There have been a few times, though, when contact has been made and someone has hurried home with a little blood coming from their scalp.

Kansas Kritter

Most of the birds will depart on annual southward migrations in mid-September, and return to Kansas in late April.

They’re smaller than most birds of prey, with bodies about 14 inches long, and wingspans stretching to about 31 inches. Black and light gray in color, Mississippi kites are generally seen soaring effortlessly more than crossing the sky with rapid wingbeats.

They’re originally native to the open prairies of southern Kansas, but they’ve gradually expanded their range northward as far as Kansas City and Hays. They’re very much at home in towns and cities and can provide thousands of hours of bird-watching entertainment.

Just be sure you don’t walk too close to their nests.

(Photo courtesy of Dave Rintoul)