Saturday, August 04, 2007

Fuzzy (or feathery) people 04

Hard to see (that's part of the point), but this is a Mississippi Kite over the TTU campus. Good friend (and trad-music student) Clint Boal has their backs:

"The Mississippi Kite is an attractive falcon-like bird of prey with a gray body and black wings. Although its 3 foot wingspan makes it appear rather large, it in reality is a small bird, weighing approximately 1/2 a pound. Mississippi Kites are present only in the summer months, during which they nest and raise their young in urban areas. They are beneficial in that they feed almost exclusively on large flying insects. It is not a threatened or endangered species, but is protected from harm or harassment by both federal and state laws.

Every year 12 to 14 pairs of Mississippi Kites nest on the Texas Tech University grounds from April through September. Recently, there have been several reports of people at TTU being swooped at, and occasionally being struck, by Mississippi Kites. Although there are 14 known nesting pairs of Mississippi Kites on the University grounds this year, only 2 of those pairs are consistently aggressive.

The reason some Mississippi Kites occasionally become aggressive is they perceive people as a threat to their nestlings. Two things in particular appear to incite Mississippi Kites to swoop at pedestrians. First, the Mississippi Kites select their nest sites and are habituated to normal foot traffic. When people depart from these normal patterns, such as deviating from sidewalks or normal foot paths, near a nest tree, the kites may become agitated. They become particularly agitated when pedestrians stop under their nest tree.

Grounds Maintenance will be placing signs on campus locating the nesting areas. If you are swooped at by a Mississippi Kite, you are undoubtedly too close to the nest. You should exit the area quickly, as they do not follow pedestrians beyond about 30 yards of the nest tree. If you were deviating from normal foot traffic patterns, refrain from doing so in the future. Do not search for a nest, as this can be perceived as especially threatening by the kites and can lead to increased aggressive behavior. Remember that often the swoops are misinterpreted as aggression when the kite is in reality simply flying to or away from their nest and happen to fly over pedestrians. This especially occurs near sidewalks where the kites are used to people walking.

If you are swooped at by a Mississippi Kite, please report the incident to Dr. Clint Boal via e-mail at or call 742-xxxx. Please include your name, contact information, location where the incident occurred, date, and time of day."

Now playing: Joseph Spence - Just a Closer Walk with Thee

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