Rare species, Mississippi Kite, admitted to Wildlife Center of Virginia for care

Mississippi Kite at Wildlife Center of Virginia.
Mississippi Kite at Wildlife Center of Virginia.(Wildlife Center of Virginia)
Published: Aug. 26, 2022 at 8:09 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WAYNESBORO, Va. (WHSV) - The Wildlife Center of Virginia is treating a Mississippi Kite, a rare species and the first of its kind treated at the center throughout its 40-year history.

A Henrico Animal Protection officer found the young raptor in early July on the side of the road. It was not able to fly or fend for itself. With no trees or sign of a nest nearby, the officer picked up the bird and brought it to the Wildlife Center.

According to the center, young raptors in need of care are not uncommon patients during the summer months. Offspring that are separated from their parents at a young age, suffer from physical injury or illness, or simply fail to thrive on their own are admitted to the Wildlife Center with a degree of predictability each year, but this raptor’s presence was anything but predictable.

At the time of admission, the bird was identified as a Cooper’s Hawk, a fairly common hawk in the accipiter family. The Wildlife Center says raptor identification can be tricky at times, even for wildlife professionals.

As the young bird developed more flight feathers and began looking more like a juvenile raptor, the staff were puzzled by the raptor’s lack of interest in the provided diet of mice and chicks. The young bird also did not look like a growing Cooper’s Hawk.

After additional scrutiny, the staff realized that this bird was actually a Mississippi Kite, which searches for large flying insects making up a majority of their diet. Unlike some other North American raptors, the Mississippi Kite is not currently listed as threatened or endangered but is not common in Virginia.

Established breeding populations exist in the Richmond and Virginia Beach areas, but their long-distance migrations (from North America through Central America, Brazil, and as far south as Argentina) make formally documented sightings extremely rare in the Shenandoah Valley area.

This young kite has been receiving specialized veterinary care at the center for the past month and a half. When it arrived at the Wildlife Center, it had significant nursing and a puncture wound on the side of its abdomen. The bird was started on anti-inflammatories and placed in a small enclosure with supplemental oxygen.

Since then, the kite was moved to an outdoor flight pen, where it is not enjoying a diet of insects and exercising daily to prepare for the fall migration.