Flying is child's play for these lightweight raptors.

By: Rick Burkman
Photography by Dave and Steve Maslowski

There are few sights more stunning than birds of prey in flight. Whether spiraling higher and higher into the blue on hidden thermals, tucking their wings to plummet on prey, or tumbling through the sky talon-to-talon with their mates, raptors display an unrivaled mastery in the air. But even amongst these fliers, there are a few that really stand out: a family of birds with the power of raptors and the grace of the smaller swifts and swallows. These are the kites, a family of skilled aviators that spend hours floating on invisible air currents like the toy that was named after them. Kites even drink on the fly as they float over lakes, ponds, and rivers.

Kites float because they are light—even by bird standards. The Mississippi kites (Ictinia mississippiensis) are about the same size as peregrine falcons, with one-third the body weight. Swallow-tailed kites (Elanoides forficatus) are 50 percent larger than their Mississippi cousins, but still weigh only half as much as the smaller peregrine falcon.

Read the rest of this article in Wildfowl Carving Magazine's Fall 2015 issue.


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