Mississippi Kite #22-2251

July 9, 2022
September 9, 2022
Rescue Location
Henrico County, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
puncture wound
Former Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated Jump to patient updates

On July 9, an officer with the Henrico Animal Protection department found a young raptor on the side of the road with no trees or sign of a nest nearby. The officer picked up the bird and brought it to the Wildlife Center of Virginia that same day.

On admission, the young raptor was having difficulty breathing; the veterinary team found that the young bird had a puncture wound on the left side of its abdomen, along with significant bruising. The veterinary staff started the bird on a course of anti-inflammatories and placed it in a small enclosure with supplemental oxygen.

In the days following admission, the young bird’s condition was poor, and the raptor struggled with an increased respiratory rate. After about a week of care, the staff noted a gradual improvement, and the bird stabilized. The bird did not want to eat on its own, though this is not uncommon given its age and injured condition; the rehabilitation staff hand-fed the raptor to ensure it had enough calories to grow and gain weight.

At the time of admission, the bird was identified as a Cooper’s Hawk – a fairly common hawk in the accipiter family. 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 – a first for the Wildlife Center!

Mississippi Kites are in the accipiter family and have eastern and western breeding populations in the United States. In Virginia, kites are not common, though there are breeding populations established in the Richmond and Virginia Beach area. Mississippi Kites are long-distance migrants, traveling through Central America south to Brazil and Argentina.

The Center’s young kite is currently living in an outdoor flight pen, where the rehabilitation staff are now offering a diet of insects. The young bird is exercising daily in preparation for fall migration.

Wildlife Rehabilitation Supervisor Kelsey Pleasants was recently interviewed by Radio IQ Charlottesville Bureau Chief Sandy Hausman about Mississippi Kite #22-2251. Check out the interview here!

You can help support our work with native wildlife.

Your donation will help provide supportive care to this unusual patient and approximately 4,000 other patients that the Wildlife Center will help this year.


Patient Updates

During the past two weeks, Mississippi Kite #22-2251 has been flying very well during daily exercise routines with rehabilitation staff. A weekly weigh-in showed that the kite also gained more than 40g in weight, giving the bird the added energy reserves it might need for migration. On September 5, the veterinary team brought the kite inside the hospital to run pre-release blood work; the blood work came back within normal limits and the bird was cleared for release.

For the next two days, the rehab team closely monitored the eBird app to search for Mississippi Kite sightings in the area; Mississippi Kites generally migrate in large flocks, and staff felt that the bird would have a better chance of successfully making it through its first migration if it had other kites to accompany it on its journey south. Luckily, on September 7, staff were alerted by a hawk-watch volunteer that there were several Mississippi Kites spotted near Covesville, Virginia.

Staff at the Wildlife Center immediately conferred with the Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) about the bird’s release. Though the bird was physically ready to return to the wild, it was late in the migration season, and most Mississippi Kites had already traveled south. DWR and Wildlife Center staff agreed that, though late in the season, the bird’s best chance of success would be if it were released now and DWR granted the Wildlife Center permission to release the bird in Covesville.

Acting quickly, front-desk supervisor Michael Adkins transported the bird to Covesville and released it. The kite took flight and circled the area several times before landing in a nearby tree. Staff are hopeful that this kite will do well on its first migration; by now, the bird may already have traveled south past Virginia’s borders toward its winter destination.

During the past two weeks, the rehabilitation team has been exercising Mississippi Kite #22-2251 in Flight Pen 2, but have had a difficult time getting the bird to fly; during exercises, the kite would not fly far and would usually go to the ground. With fall migration quickly approaching, the rehab team decided to try exercising the kite in a larger flight pen to see if that would help. On August 31, rehab staff brought the kite to A3, one of the Center’s largest flight pens. The kite showed marked improvement in its flight! It quickly flew three flight passes around the enclosure and was able to fly from the ground to higher perches.

The rehab team will continue to bring the kite to A3 for flight conditioning, and plan to feed the bird extra-large meals in preparation for its release and long migration south.