October 2015

White-tailed Kites Have the Last Word!

In the March News of this website we reported that there was evidence of potential nesting for the White-tailed Kite. This was welcome news as our famous signature raptor, a bird that historically lives and breeds in profusion on More Mesa had not produced a single chick for at least three years. And as the months went by with no further nesting signs we despaired that 2015 would be yet another “no chick” year. Now, we are delighted to report that the kites have found a way!

One of our most avid and dedicated birders, Jessie Altstatt, had been seeing one or two kites, all through July. Then, in late August she suddenly noted four kites. They were in the oaks close to Atascadero Creek on the north edge of More Mesa. Even more exciting was the conclusive identification of three juveniles among these four! The markings of juvenile kites are clearly shown in the accompanying photo, courtesy of Mark Holmgren. These are bold white margins on most of the dark feathers and gold breast feathering.

On another note, further identification revealed that this group was definitely not the family that bred in July at Lake Los Carneros.  Bottom line … this sighting, while it is exciting news for More Mesa, it is only our second kite breeding event in the entire Goleta Valley this season.

An additional observation about food, yields even further “food for thought.” The four birds reported were observed feeding on a larger mammal; perhaps a ground squirrel. This food choice is extremely interesting in that kites in the Goleta Valley almost always rely on California Voles, or to a lesser extent, on other vole-sized mammals as a food source.

Fledged kites on More Mesa 2015, photo courtesy Mark Holmgren