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!