Rare species, Mississippi Kite, admitted to Virginia Wildlife Center for care

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WAYNESBORO, Va. (WHSV) – The Wildlife Center of Virginia is treating a Mississippi kite, a rare species and the first of its kind treated at the center in its 40-year history.

A Henrico animal welfare officer found the young raptor in early July on the side of the road. He was not able to fly or fend for himself. With no trees or any sign of a nest nearby, the officer picked up the bird and brought it to the Wildlife Center.

According to the center, young raptors in need of care are not uncommon patients during the summer months. Offspring who are separated from their parents at a young age, suffer physical injury or illness, or simply fail to thrive on their own are admitted to the Wildlife Center with some degree of predictability each year, but attendance of this raptor was anything but predictable.

On admission, the bird was identified as a Cooper’s hawk, a fairly common hawk in the accipiter family. The Wildlife Center says that identifying raptors can sometimes be tricky, even for wildlife professionals.

As the young bird developed more flight feathers and began to look more like a juvenile raptor, staff were puzzled by the raptor’s lack of interest in the diet provided to the mice and chicks. The young bird also didn’t look like a growing Cooper’s hawk.

After careful examination, staff realized that this bird was actually a Mississippi kite, which forages for large flying insects that make up the majority of its diet. Unlike some other North American raptors, the Mississippi kite is currently not listed as threatened or endangered, but is not common in Virginia.

Established breeding populations exist in the Richmond and Virginia Beach areas, but their long-distance migrations (from North America to Central America, Brazil, and as far south as Argentina) make sightings formally documented extremely rare in the Shenandoah Valley region.

This young kite has been receiving specialized veterinary care at the center for a month and a half. When he arrived at the Wildlife Center, he had extensive care and a puncture wound on the side of his abdomen. The bird was put on anti-inflammatories and placed in a small enclosure with supplemental oxygen.

The kite has since been moved to an outdoor flying enclosure, where it does not enjoy a diet of insects and exercises daily to prepare for the fall migration.

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