What’s up with the Hook-billed Kites? – 10,000 Birds

Animalstuffstore Cedar-Waxwing-1-Paso-Ancho-February-2023-630x389 What’s up with the Hook-billed Kites? – 10,000 Birds Bird

Cedar Waxwings have come again to central Mexico. Most years, there aren’t any quite a lot of dozen studies of this species throughout the area. However in 2020 I personally noticed hundreds of Waxwings in a dozen or so websites, and each one in every of my birder mates throughout the nation had an identical expertise. This yr, the sightings are much less, to date. (I’ve seen precisely one Waxwing this yr.) However there have nonetheless been tons of of Waxwing studies throughout the nation this yr, and they’re nonetheless on the rise.

Right here is my solely Cedar Waxwing for 2023… to date. A few years I see none.

This habits is called an irruption. Sure sorts of birds, similar to finches and Snowy Owls, could go for years with out travelling outdoors of their regular ranges. Then an absence or abundance of meals sources will trigger them to instantly transfer in nice numbers past their standard limits, usually to the south, and in winter. Whereas that is extra generally skilled within the U.S. and Canada, Waxwings are clearly an irruptive species for Mexico.

Then again, I’ve grown very accustomed to seeing White-tailed Hawks outdoors their official vary. Each my Howell’s A Information to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America, printed in 1995 and printed in 2012, and my constantly-updated Merlin App, present maps which recommend that I shouldn’t see this stunning Hawk in my area. And but, I’ve precisely 50 sightings on my checklist… and counting. Actually, I had a really dramatic encounter simply final week, simply earlier than arriving at an Amerindian city two hours from house. Two hawks took benefit of a really stiff wind to hover simply overhead.

Animalstuffstore White-tailed-Hawk-1-1-630x389 What’s up with the Hook-billed Kites? – 10,000 Birds Bird
Animalstuffstore White-tailed-Hawk-2-1-630x389 What’s up with the Hook-billed Kites? – 10,000 Birds Bird
Animalstuffstore White-tailed-Hawk-3-630x389 What’s up with the Hook-billed Kites? – 10,000 Birds Bird

And right here they’re, together with a uncommon view of the upperparts of 1 hawk.

Within the case of those hawks, they undoubtedly usually are not displaying irruptive habits, as I’ve seen them a number of instances annually, usually in the identical place. (I used to impress birder mates as we drove east from Morelia within the morning, by telling them that “Simply over this hill, there will probably be two White-tailed Hawks on a lifeless tree”. They by no means failed me, till one month they lastly determined to completely roost farther from the freeway.)

I can solely posit two explanations for this example: Both Howell and Merlin are each simply plain mistaken, which I discover arduous to imagine, or this species has managed a major improve in its central Mexican vary. Certainly, it was not recorded on eBird in Morelia earlier than 2010, however has been reported everywhere in the metropolis and surrounding space since then. My cash is on a variety extension. (Particularly since I’d be loopy to wager towards Steve Howell. When you occur to learn this, Steve, I’ve nothing however mad love in your work.)

Which brings us to the species on this publish’s title. The Hook-billed Kite is a superb chicken. I noticed it described someplace as a parrot’s invoice caught to a hawk’s physique. Just like the Snail Kite, which has an identical invoice, it makes use of that sharp hook to eat water snails, and is due to this fact virtually all the time seen close to water.

Till just lately, I had solely seen it as soon as — and to inform the reality, I now have my doubts about that first sighting, since I used to be a really new birder, was usually mistaken again then, and didn’t depart any photographic proof of it. Apart from that, there are precisely three eBird registries for the highlands of my state, and factors north, earlier than 2020 — two that I belief fully, and one which I doubt.

However in my first outing for 2023, on the second day of the yr, my botanist pal Nacho and I noticed a powerful dark-morph Hook-billed Kite simply north of Lake Cuitzeo. Final week, Nacho photographed a light-morph grownup, and an ornithologist pal noticed 5 Kites flying overhead close to Nacho’s website. This week, I noticed a light-morph immature Kite a number of miles from our January sighting. Not solely that, however this species has now been reported repeatedly within the space of Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, in addition to additional north, close to the cities of Salamanca, Irapuato, León, and Querétaro.

Animalstuffstore Dark-Morph-1-630x389 What’s up with the Hook-billed Kites? – 10,000 Birds Bird

Our Kite #1, darkish morph

Animalstuffstore Nachos-Kite-630x389 What’s up with the Hook-billed Kites? – 10,000 Birds Bird

Nacho’s Kite #2, gentle morph grownup, with what seems to be a snail in its invoice

Animalstuffstore Light-Morph-2-630x389 What’s up with the Hook-billed Kites? – 10,000 Birds Bird

My Kite #2, gentle morph immature

In Mexico, there may be all the time the likelihood {that a} given species has not been reported due to an absence of birders, moderately than an absence of birds. Nonetheless, this can be a very clear pattern. A Hook-billed Kite irruption appears unlikely, since we’re in our third yr of a gradual improve in sightings. So as soon as once more, my cash is on a variety extension.

And, gee, I do hope I’m proper.

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