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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Mississippi Kite -- Ictinia mississippiensis

RANGE: Breeds from central Arizona to north-central Kansas, southern Illinois, western Kentucky, the northern portions of the Gulf States and South Carolina south to central and southeastern New Mexico across the Gulf Coast and north-central Florida. Expanding range along its northern border. Winters in South America.

STATUS: Common in the southern Great Plains, uncommon in the Southeast.

HABITAT: Inhabits forests, open woodlands, and prairies. Found on the prairies of Kansas and in baldcypress swamps and pinelands in the Gulf States, scrub oak country in Oklahoma, and mesquite-sand sagebrush rangeland in Texas.

NEST: In the East, nests in riparian habitats, or in large pines, oaks, and sweetgums of large woods. In the Great Plains, nests in shelterbelts, farm woodlots, lawn trees in towns, or any small grove of trees. Also nests in scrub oaks and mesquite. Depending on the tree, places nest from 10 to 135 feet above ground. In Arizona, nests in cottonwoods taller than 50 feet in open groves or in scattered clumps surrounded by dense riparian scrubland of saltcedar and velvet mesquite 6.5 to 33 feet tall.

FOOD: Primarily consumes insects caught in the air, including grasshoppers, locusts, cicadas, katydids, large beetles, and dragonflies; also eats small snakes, lizards, and frogs.

REFERENCES: Brown and Amadon 1968, Glinski and Ohmart 1983, Heintzelman 1979, Kaufman in Farrand 1983a, Oberholser 1974a, Parker and Ogden 1979, Sprunt 1955, Terres 1980.

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