Archive for Friday, September 22, 2006

White-tailed kite makes rare appearance in northeast Kansas

September 22, 2006

The white-tailed kite is rarely seen around these parts.

Biology experts are unsure how the adult bird ended up north of Lawrence in the last week. It's only the third documented sighting in Kansas.

¢ To get to a public viewing area of the white-tailed kite, take U.S. Highway 24-40 east from North Lawrence and turn left on East 1600 Road.

¢ Proceed about a mile and follow the jog and drive over Mud Creek. Take a left to continue on East 1600.

¢ Follow the road for about three miles, through twists and turns until you see the entrance to the Nelson Environmental Study Area is on the right at 350 Wild Horse Road. The Nelson is not open to the public.

¢ Continue north for about 3/8 of a mile. At a sharp bend in the road, pull off next to a pipe gate. Scan the fields to the north and east for the bird.

"A lot of bird watchers are coming from out of town to try to see it because it's such a rare sight," said Galen Pittman, station manager for the Kansas Biological Survey.

He first noticed the kite about 1 1/2 weeks ago, and since then people have popped in from as far away as Wichita, Hays and Columbia, Mo., to catch a glimpse of the kite. Word traveled quickly after Pittman and other enthusiasts shared news of their sighting with those on an e-mail subscriber list.

The bird has hung around the Nelson Environmental Study Area, administered by the Kansas Biological Survey, north of Lawrence in Jefferson County off Wild Horse Road.

The white bird of prey has spent its time soaring and coasting in the sky and looking for field mice in prairie grass.

"If there's enough wind blowing, it will actually hang in the air like a kite," Pittman said.

When it finds prey, the bird holds its wings steeper and swoops down to snatch up the mouse.

The bird species typically resides in California and southern Texas with other sightings in Arizona, Florida and New Mexico. Mostly, the kites live in Central and South America.

"There's a lot of serious birders who have come out," Pittman said. "Otherwise, it might take them years to see it because it's so rare."

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