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Elegant kites join migrants that will visit Grand Strand area

Red-winged blackbirds are among the migrants returning to our area.
Red-winged blackbirds are among the migrants returning to our area. For The Sun News

Spring bird migration is certainly under way and has been evidenced at my feeders of late in the form of small groups of red-winged blackbirds and common grackles trickling through, and last weekend by the brown-headed cowbirds observed here in the confines where I live. These “black” birds are among the earliest of spring migrants and will soon be followed by a multitude of other species.

Among the species that will be returning is swallow-tailed kite. These elegant birds of prey are always a joy to see, and to observe them on the wing is to see perhaps the epitome of graceful and effortless flight as they soar and swoop through their element. While hummingbirds are the masters of powered flight, kites are masters of the wind, able to utilize even the hint of a breeze to stay aloft with no more effort than the slightest movement of their namesake tails.

Our area marks the northernmost documented edge of their breeding range in North America. As a state endangered species in South Carolina, and uncommon throughout most of its breeding range, there is keen interest in the numbers and distribution of these wonderful raptors. You can help add to the knowledge of these amazing aves by reporting any sightings you make to the web page at www.thecenterforbirdsofprey.org/swallowtail-kite.php. The information gathered via this citizen science project is used to help monitor swallow-tailed kites, their habits and the habitats they’re utilizing in our area, and is part of a larger effort where the overall goal is the conservation of these wonderful birds across their North American range.

A reminder: You can participate in another citizen science project, a study of chimney swifts, by reporting your first spring sighting to www.chimneyswifts.org. The population of these beneficial little birds has been in a state of decline, so the information reported via this project is used to help monitor numbers and distribution of chimney swifts to aid conservation efforts for the species.

Our breeding ruby-throated hummingbirds are making their way back into the area. If you haven’t already done so, now is a great time to get your hummingbird feeder in place. Along with “our” hummingbirds, many others will be passing through on their way to more northern breeding grounds, and those tiny travelers will benefit greatly from a pit stop at a well-maintained feeder en route to their ultimate destinations. Remember to keep your feeder clean and maintained with a solution of one part sugar to four parts water with no other additives, please.

Reach GARY PHILLIPS at 248-4595 or carolinensis@yahoo.com.