This summer’s scorching temperatures have not only impacted Oklahoma’s human residents, but its wildlife inhabitants as well. To Wild Care Oklahomaa wildlife rehabilitation center in Noble, the heat causes an influx of juvenile Mississippi kites.
Mississippi kites are raptors that nest in the southern United States before flying to South America for the winter – but when it gets too hot, baby kites jump their nests at high canopy to escape the heat.
Oklahoma faced record temperatures this summer, and as residents prepare for another round of hot summer days with highs near 100 degrees, more kites continue to appear en masse at the rehab center.
Manager Inger Giuffrida said the best thing to do when a baby kite is found is to call WildCare.
“Because Mississippi kite nests are high up in the trees, two things happen: One, they fall pretty well,” Giuffrida said. “And then secondly, it can be very difficult to get them back into the nest.”
Giuffrida recommends the following steps to take if a juvenile raptor is found:
- Call WildCare at 405-872-9338.
- Look for the bird’s parents. They often cry or spin overhead, or may even dive-bomb humans approaching their babies to protect them.
- If you can see the nest, take a picture of it.
- Carefully place the kite in a box with a towel and a secure lid.
- Bring it to WildCare as soon as possible and provide staff with any relevant information about the bird’s parents and nest.
Giuffrida said while the height of the nests can make nesting difficult, there are workarounds. Makeshift nests can be built on the lower branches and raptor parents will often continue to care for their young in the new nest. But reuniting the kites with their families is not possible in all cases, and these youngsters remain at the center to be bred with the other kites.
Other extreme weather events have impacted Mississippi kites in recent years. Giuffrida said last February severe winter storm delayed the arrival of spring insects, and without these insects, kites lost a primary source of food. Ultimately, this meant that many parent kites put off having babies until it was too late.
“We saw babies arriving even at the beginning of September, which was very tragic because they didn’t have enough time to grow, fly away and be ready to go back to South America,” Giuffrida said. “And so many of these Mississippi kites were lost in the last year due to the extreme weather conditions that we experienced.”
Kites require round-the-clock care, with feedings every two hours during the day. Giuffrida said the center needs more volunteers to fill the kite feeding program. Volunteer information can be found here.
Giuffrida said the facility has admitted 109 Mississippi kites so far this year, 52 of which have been fledglings or near fledglings. And there could be more on the way – she said in 2020, 60% of their kites arrived after August 2. That year, WildCare admitted 242 kites.
Going forward, as the effects of climate change continue to manifest themselves in severe weather, Giuffrida said the delicate ecosystems and the wildlife populations that inhabit them could suffer irreparable damage.
“It’s just the interconnectedness of the climate. This has direct and immediate impacts on things like insect populations. And people say, ‘Well, who cares, they’re just bugs?’ “said Giuffrida. “Well, insects pollinate our food and are a primary food source for thousands of different animal species. And so it has a direct impact on us. And maybe we haven’t felt it all year. last, but too many years of [extreme weather]and we certainly will.
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