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

Cedar Waxwings have come again to central Mexico. Most years, there are not 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 among my birder pals throughout the nation had an analogous expertise. This yr, the sightings are much less, to date. (I’ve seen precisely one Waxwing this yr.) However there have nonetheless been lots 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, comparable to finches and Snowy Owls, could go for years with out travelling exterior of their regular ranges. Then an absence or abundance of meals sources will trigger them to out of the blue transfer in nice numbers past their ordinary 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 exterior 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 lovely 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 residence. Two hawks took benefit of a really stiff wind to hover simply overhead.

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

Within the case of those hawks, they positively are usually not displaying irruptive habits, as I’ve seen them a number of occasions every year, usually in the identical place. (I used to impress birder pals 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 useless 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 case: Both Howell and Merlin are each simply plain mistaken, which I discover exhausting to consider, or this species has managed a big enhance in its central Mexican vary. Certainly, it was not recorded on eBird in Morelia earlier than 2010, however has been reported all around the metropolis and surrounding space since then. My cash is on a spread 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 to your work.)

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

Till 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 utterly, and one which I doubt.

However in my first outing for 2023, on the second day of the yr, my botanist good friend Nacho and I noticed an impressive dark-morph Hook-billed Kite simply north of Lake Cuitzeo. Final week, Nacho photographed a light-morph grownup, and an ornithologist good friend noticed 5 Kites flying overhead close to Nacho’s website. This week, I noticed a light-morph immature Kite a couple 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.

Our Kite #1, darkish morph

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

My Kite #2, mild morph immature

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

And, gee, I do hope I’m proper.

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