Nebraska Ornithologists' Union



Gary R. Lingle, The Platte River Whooping Crane Trust
Kari L. Lingle, The Platte River Whooping Crane Trust

Copyright 1983, Nebraska Ornithologists' Union. Used by permission.


On 31 August 1983 at about 1200 h COT, the junior author discovered a Black·shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus) on Mormon Island Crane Meadows, Hall County, Nebraska, perched in a plains cottonwood (Populus deltoides). The senior author visited the site at 1800 h COT and observed the bird in the same tree, with a 25x spotting scope. It was perched on a dead limb and was carefully observed for 15 min. The next day, 1 September, we visited the area at 1200 h and observed the Kite. We carefully noted plumage and soft parts coloration as follows: eye· reddish brown; cere- greenish yellow; bill· bluish black; tarsus· yellow; cap· streaked with brown and white feathers gradually blending into a pearl gray neck and back; tail· mostly white with a faint, partial terminal band; breast· nearly all white except for remnants of a brownish streaked bib and sparse brownish fleckings on the breast; wings· grayish white except for black coverts; underside in flight· nearly all white except for black wrist markings. Based on these markings we believe it was an immature bird which had nearly completely molted into adult plumage. We flushed the bird and it circled curiously overhead, displaying its coloration. This bird was observed on 22 occasions from 31 August to 8 October. It perched regularly in the cottonwood or one of two nearby boxelders (Acer negundo).

The Black·shouldered Kite was observed feeding on a meadow vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus) on 2 occasions. Its hunting behavior consisted of hovering above open fields then dropping vertically to the ground while attempting to capture its prey. Eleven regurgitated pellets were collected underneath its perch between 2 September and 5 October. All contained hair and skull parts from meadow voles. The pellets varied between 21 x 26 mm and 27 x39mm in size.

This bird apparently established a feeding territory. On 19 September at 1630hCDT, it left its cottonwood perch and pursued a Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) soaring overhead. The Kite circled above the hawk and stooped to within 1 m, although no contact was made. It harassed the Red-tailed Hawk for about 300 m then returned to its perch. On 8 October at 1100 COT, a second interaction with a Red-tailed Hawk was observed. The Hawk displaced the perched Kite. The Kite then circled and stooped at the Hawk for about 4 minutes until the Hawk departed and the Kite resumed its perch. The Kite stooped to within 15 cm of the Hawk at each pass but no contact was made.