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What’s up with the Hook-billed Kites? – 10,000 Birds


    Cedar Waxwings have come again to central Mexico. Most years, there are not any various dozen reviews of this species throughout the area. However in 2020 I personally noticed hundreds of Waxwings in a dozen or so websites, and each one in every of my birder pals throughout the nation had an identical expertise. This yr, the sightings are much less, to date. (I’ve seen precisely one Waxwing this yr.) However there have nonetheless been a whole bunch of Waxwing reviews throughout the nation this yr, and they’re nonetheless on the rise.

    Right here is my solely Cedar Waxwing for 2023… to date. A few years I see none.

    This conduct is named an irruption. Sure sorts of birds, akin to finches and Snowy Owls, might go for years with out travelling exterior of their regular ranges. Then an absence or abundance of meals sources will trigger them to abruptly transfer in nice numbers past their common limits, typically to the south, and in winter. Whereas that is extra generally skilled within the U.S. and Canada, Waxwings are clearly an irruptive species for Mexico.

    Then again, I’ve grown very accustomed to seeing White-tailed Hawks exterior their official vary. Each my Howell’s A Information to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America, revealed in 1995 and printed in 2012, and my constantly-updated Merlin App, present maps which recommend that I shouldn’t see this stunning Hawk in my area. And but, I’ve precisely 50 sightings on my record… and counting. In truth, I had a really dramatic encounter simply final week, simply earlier than arriving at an Amerindian city two hours from dwelling. Two hawks took benefit of a really stiff wind to hover simply overhead.

    And right here they’re, together with a uncommon view of the upperparts of 1 hawk.

    Within the case of those hawks, they positively usually are not displaying irruptive conduct, as I’ve seen them a number of instances every year, typically in the identical place. (I used to impress birder pals as we drove east from Morelia within the morning, by telling them that “Simply over this hill, there shall be two White-tailed Hawks on a useless tree”. They by no means failed me, till one month they lastly determined to completely roost farther from the freeway.)

    I can solely posit two explanations for this example: Both Howell and Merlin are each simply plain mistaken, which I discover exhausting to imagine, or this species has managed a big enhance in its central Mexican vary. Certainly, it was not recorded on eBird in Morelia earlier than 2010, however has been reported all around the metropolis and surrounding space since then. My cash is on a spread extension. (Particularly since I might be loopy to guess towards Steve Howell. In case you occur to learn this, Steve, I’ve nothing however mad love in your work.)

    Which brings us to the species on this publish’s title. The Hook-billed Kite is a superb fowl. I noticed it described someplace as a parrot’s invoice caught to a hawk’s physique. Just like the Snail Kite, which has an identical invoice, it makes use of that sharp hook to eat water snails, and is subsequently virtually at all times seen close to water.

    Till lately, I had solely seen it as soon as — and to inform the reality, I now have my doubts about that first sighting, since I used to be a really new birder, was typically mistaken again then, and didn’t go away any photographic proof of it. Aside from that, there are precisely three eBird registries for the highlands of my state, and factors north, earlier than 2020 — two that I belief fully, and one which I doubt.

    However in my first outing for 2023, on the second day of the yr, my botanist pal Nacho and I noticed a powerful dark-morph Hook-billed Kite simply north of Lake Cuitzeo. Final week, Nacho photographed a light-morph grownup, and an ornithologist pal noticed 5 Kites flying overhead close to Nacho’s website. This week, I noticed a light-morph immature Kite a number of miles from our January sighting. Not solely that, however this species has now been reported repeatedly within the space of Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, in addition to additional north, close to the cities of Salamanca, Irapuato, León, and Querétaro.

    Our Kite #1, darkish morph

    Nacho’s Kite #2, mild morph grownup, with what seems to be a snail in its invoice

    My Kite #2, mild morph immature

    In Mexico, there’s at all times the likelihood {that a} given species has not been reported due to an absence of birders, somewhat than an absence of birds. Nonetheless, this can be a very clear development. A Hook-billed Kite irruption appears unlikely, since we’re in our third yr of a gradual enhance in sightings. So as soon as once more, my cash is on a spread extension.

    And, gee, I do hope I’m proper.