[TN-Bird] Swallow-tailed Kite (Washington Co., TN)

  • From: "Donald Miller" <pandion@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "TN-Bird" <TN-bird@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>, "Bristol-birds" <bristol-birds@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 18 Aug 2007 15:02:12 -0400

August 18, 2007

Washington Co., TN--vicinity of mouth of Clark's Creek, along Highway 107

After searching unsuccessfully for two and a half hours yesterday evening for 
the kites seen recently in Washington County, I returned to the site this 
morning for another attempt.  

I arrived at 8:51 to find that insect activity had not yet begun to any great 
degree.  After a brief look on Enon Church Road, where the birds were seen 
yesterday, I visited Jackson Bridge Road a short distance upstream.  I found no 
kites, but on Jackson Bridge Road there were 500+ Mourning Doves on wires over 
a field--an impressive total for this species in our area.  Along the river at 
Enon Church Road a short while later, I saw three Double-crested Cormorants fly 

At about 9:20 or so, James Brooks and Carole Franklin arrived at Enon Church 
Road.  At 9:37, the three of us saw both Swallow-tailed Kites approach from the 
south--that is, from the Clark's Creek cove.  They slowly worked their way 
across the river and disappeared over the fields to the north.  

Around 10:00, Tom and T.J. McNeil arrived.  About twenty minutes later, the 
birds re-appeared, this time flying low over the river.  We had the kites in 
view continually until about noon.  Most of the time the birds were more 
visible from across Highway 107 than from Enon Church Road.  The best spot for 
viewing was along Eli Masters Road, located directly across Highway 107 from 
the western end of Enon Church Road (Enon Church Road is a loop).  

By late morning, Rack Cross had arrived.  He and Tom McNeil took many photos of 
both birds.  Carole Franklin and at least one other person, whose name I did 
not catch, also took pictures, so plenty of photographic evidence will be 

Both birds are adults.  I could not definitely ascertain that one was slightly 
larger than the other, though at times it appeared as if this might be the 
case.  One bird did appear to be undergoing molt, as it showed "notching" in 
the mid-section of the trailing edge of both wings.  

Feeding was active throughout the morning.  On many occasions, I saw the kites 
catching insects and eating on the wing.  Their aerial maneuvers while foraging 
were often spectacular.  At least once I saw a bird turn a backward somersault. 

At no time were the birds observed to perch.   

Both kites were still feeding actively along Eli Masters Road at 12:48, when I 
left to return to Greeneville.

Everyone in the birding community owes a great debt of gratitude to Olen Gentry 
and Rita Hunt, the local residents who first saw a Swallow-tailed Kite on 
Friday, August 10.  After realizing that they had seen an unusual bird, they 
consulted a field guide and matched their observation to Swallow-tailed Kite, 
but they couldn't reconcile what they had seen with the range map shown for the 
species in the guide.  Nonetheless, they felt convinced of their 
identification, though puzzled.  

On Tuesday, August 14, Olen and Rita spoke to my wife, knowing her interest in 
birds.   She, too, felt convinced of the validity of their sighting and put 
Olen in touch with me.  I listened carefully to his account and believed that 
he had indeed probably seen a Swallow-tailed Kite.  I gave him my phone numbers 
and asked him to contact me immediately if he or Rita saw the bird again.

On Friday, August 17, at a little after noon, Olen phoned me at work to report 
that he and Rita were looking at two kites.  Unable to leave the office, I 
phoned Don Holt, who works nearby, and who I thought might be able to get to 
the Enon Church area on short notice.  He was able to leave work immediately to 
look for the birds.  I also phoned Rick Knight, but I got no answer.

At about  12:50, Don called me to say that he was watching the birds feeding on 
Enon Church Road.  He also was able to get in touch with Rick Knight.  Rick 
observed both kites a short while later.  (I think at least one other person 
also saw the birds on Friday.)

Had Olen and Rita not taken careful notice of the kite they saw on August 10, 
and had they not skillfully identified it and pursued additional assistance, a 
great bird find very probably would have gone undocumented.  Many thanks to 
them for an excellent piece of nature observation.       

Don Miller
Greeneville, Greene Co., TN


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  • » [TN-Bird] Swallow-tailed Kite (Washington Co., TN)