The Grey Headed Kite

From the order of Falconiformes in a family of Accipitridae is a species known as leptodon cayanensis or the Grey Headed Kite.

I started my writing about birds to bring into recognition the great variety of birds found on Ambergris Caye. Ambergris is a unique island among many barrier reef islands offthe coast of Belize. held in distinction by being in truth not a barrier island at all but a teardrop point of the Yucatan Peninsula. A short distance from rich rain forests for those who can fly and enjoy seafood cuisine. So I shouldn't be surprised when I find new and untypical birds on the island The Grey Headed Kite is such a bird.

The Accipitridae family members are raptors and include hawks and eagles. They are diurnal (of the daytime) hunters, most of its 217 members have common predatory habits, very acute sight, powerful feet with long talons and sharp hooked bills.

Kites are a group within the family held in distinction in part by their appetite for snails.

The kites are more varied and specialized than any other group. Some live entirely on bats caught in the early evening hunt.

Bubba and I were visiting a post classic Mayan archaeological site midway up Ambergris called 'Los Renegados'. It has recently been cleared of brush and provides a convenient opportunity to observe birds not seen from the lagoons or beach. The clearing of brush provides a hunting ground of displaced and exposed snakes, mice, snails and juicy blue crab. Bubba sponed this rare and uncommon bird on a perch overlooking the field. At first it appeared to be a Roadside Hawk, but the paKern on its breast was vertical instead of the Roadside's horizontal stripe. An adult Grey Headed Kite is about 20 inches tall, has a soft grey head, light bluegrey lores and feet with dark upper wings and tail; very distinctive, but as a juvenile it appears as a completely different bird. This condition is called 'dimorphic' sometimes shortened to 'morph' (an English term). It's a variation of color during maturity and sometimes sex. I've also seen this condition referred to as 'color phase'.

Our friend at 'Los Renegados' is in his 'dark morph' which means to me he is very young and will grow into a 'light morph' stage before becoming what most will recognize easily as a Grey Headed Kite. The Grey Headed Kites are long distance migrators. Some Accipitridae migrate from Canada along the central flyway through Texas, past Belize. as far down as Argentina. They are slow to mature and sometimes will miss the first mating season. They nest on shallow stick platforms lined in leaves in taller trees and have I to 5 egg s that are offwhite.

Discovering new birds on Ambergris seems to be unending.

Birds of Ambergris Caye

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