Today I spent the morning just south of Lucedale, MS, about an hour north of our home in Gautier. I parked on the road by a farmer’s field in the hopes of spotting the large group of Swallow-Tailed Kites that had been seen here earlier in the week.
When I arrived at 8:45, there were no kites to be found. However, within ten minutes I spotted two over the field. I got my photography gear out of the car, and when I looked up a few minutes later, four more had joined the first pair. They were searching for Green June Beetles that were emerging from the soil. They would “dance” in the sky, rolling and diving down to catch the beetles, and then eat them on the wing. They never touched the ground or landed. They just swooped down low enough to catch the young beetles.
By 9:15 there were over two-dozen Swallow-Tailed Kites dancing over the field. It was spectacular to watch. They could rotate their tails almost vertically, allowing them to maneuver very quickly in the air. I even spotted one flying upside down for a few seconds as it chased after a beetle.
For the next 90 minutes I watched them soar, spin, dive and dance over the field. By 10:45 the show was over and they all dispersed. This was one of the most amazing feats of ballet I have seen. I feel very privileged to have witnessed such an extraordinary act of nature.
Below are a few shots I took while watching them. However, my camera could not do the large group justice. I did take a short video as well, and although I could only focus on a small portion of the group, I hope it will give you a better sense of their aerobatics.