We currently have two MIKIs (the acronym for the species) being treated in our medical center. This is pretty cool because they are one of our more rare species. Since 1988, we have admitted 51 total. The numbers are increasing (with a random spike in 2007), but we still typically admit 4 or less a year. This year we are already at 5.
Both birds were transferred from the Columbia, SC area, where they are more common. The adult was admitted with an ulna fracture and the juvenile with a humerus fracture. The radiograph of the adult showed a metal foreign body (indicating gunshot).
Mississippi kites are migratory. They spend most of the year in South America, only venturing up north from late March/early April to late August/early September. Their breeding range includes the Gulf Coast, Central Great Plains, and up the Atlantic coast into the Carolinas. They normally don’t travel as far north as the foothills of North Carolina, where we are located, but isolated pairs have been spotted (this summer a pair was identified in south Charlotte).
One of the MIKIs is an adult and the other is a juvenile, which is indicated by the plumage difference. The adult is dark grey with a long black tail. The juvenile has heavy brown streaks on its underparts.
MIKIs are a challenge to feed because they are insect eaters. Not only are they insect eaters, but they prefer to catch their prey in flight and consume midair. We have learned that they will eat reliably if their food is placed on a feeding platform at eye level near their favorite perch. They are also quite messy eaters, so their food must be cut up tiny.