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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Swallow-tailed kite captured the attention of local birders

by Greg Layson


A wayward raptor had birders from across Essex County flocking to LaSalle and flying high last week.


A swallow-tailed kite managed to navigate its way to the bedroom community of Windsor, some 2,000 kilometres away from its natural summertime habitat of Florida.


The bird flew into town on the August 19 weekend and stayed until at least August 24.



Avid birder Mark Nenadov was the first to spot the species. While heading for gas to fill the lawn mower, he was driving down Laurier Drive, near the Vollmer Complex, when he noticed the rarity soaring overhead.


“It was incredible,” Nenadov said.


He’d been on the lookout for a swallow-tailed kite for years. The bird looks somewhat like an oversized, dark blue barn swallow with a white belly and head. 


But Nenavod has some problems: He was without his binoculars, camera, and field book, used to identify and confirm sightings.


He did manage to pull over to message fellow local birders about his find. And then, the chase was on. Birders came and went for an entire week, hoping to catch a glimpse.


Stan Lee, who has been birding for a decade, was one of them.


“This is the best outing


you can have,” he said between peeks through his lens on August 24. 


The kite spent days gracefully cruising over corn and soybean fields, catching dragonflies and other insects.


“[There have been] lots of chances for pictures. This guy’s good,” Lee said, smiling. “Usually, they just fly away and pass by, but this one has been hanging around. That’s unusual.”


Paul Pratt, the retired Naturalist for the City of Windsor, said finding a swallow-tailed kite in LaSalle is like “finding a gold coin mixed in with your pocket change,” but that they have been spotted passing by from time-to-time, mainly at Holiday Beach and Point Pelee.


Nenavod said that, according to eBird – an online resource for tracking bird sightings – there have been just two sightings ever reported outside of Point Pelee.


Nenavod said it’s a “super rare” bird that’s “frustrated” him in the past, because he’s always seemed to miss him.


“But it’s exhilarating when, suddenly, you’re not looking for it, and you see it,” he said.


Pratt said the species is a migratory bird, so “it’s used to travelling long distances,” but it should be headed to Central America at this time of year.


“I think every once in a while, one gets its brains scrambled a little bit and heads off in the opposite direction, 180 degrees from somewhere it’s supposed to go, rather than heading south,” he said.


Meanwhile, Nenavod managed to return the day after first seeing the kite and snapped some “blurry photos” and crossed the bird off his bucket list, before the kite left town.



Photo submitted by Fred Adair: A swallow-tailed kite that found itself a long way from its Southern U.S. home eats a dragonfly while it soars over fields on the eastern edge of LaSalle on Thursday, August 24, 2023.


Photo submitted by Fred Adair: A swallow-tailed kite that found itself a long way from its Southern U.S. home soars over fields on the eastern edge of LaSalle on Thursday, August 24, 2023.

Photo by Greg Layson: Birders train their lenses on a swallow-tailed kite flying over fields on the eastern edge of LaSalle on Thursday, August 24, 2023.

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