Mississippi Kite release, October 24, 1999

Hazel Bazemore County Park, Nueces County, Texas

Gathering to prepareJoyce Penny with juv kiteA closer look at beautiful markingsStaging for releaseBJ and JoelJeremy queues up

Joel Simon with adult kiteJoyce Penny and hatch year kiteBJ Dertien and hatch year kiteJeremy Dertien and hatch year kite

Freedom!Two more departAnd they're off!Michelle Setter and Harold Fetter celebrate the release!And they're still going! Success ... times four!

(Click on thumbnail picture to see full-size image)

What a nice way to start a watch day! Thanks to weeks and weeks of efforts by the South Carolina Center for Birds of Prey (SCCBP) in Charleston, SC, the Texas State Aquarium (TSA) and the Hazel Bazemore Hawk Watch were privileged to participate in the release of four Mississippi kites that were successfully rehabilitated through the South Carolina program. One adult and three hatch year kites were flown in last night from South Carolina and released this morning by Michelle Setter of the Aquarium's Animal Husbandry and Rehabilitation Division at the Hazel Bazemore Hawk Watch. On hand to help out were hawk watchers Joel Simon (released adult), Joyce Penny (released hatch year kite), Glenn and Jimmy Swartz, Harold Fetter and of course, Bill Beasley and I. Also on hand and in for the surprise of his young life was Jeremy Dertien of Austin, with his parents BJ (released hatch year kite) & Julie. The Dertiens were birding with Jeremy, who was out freshening up his life list after a long battle and treatment for illness. Today just happened to be the day they all were at Hazel, looking for hawks, so we enlisted Jeremy's help to release one of the hatch year kites.

SCCBP Director Jim Elliott says the kites were a very special project and one of the success stories that we all love to hear about. The adult kite had been brought in with broken radius-ulna bones from a BB gunshot. Unfortunately, the fracture could not be successfully repaired surgically. Fortunately, by keeping her healthy in hopes of at least using the female adult kite in an education program, rehabilitators were surprised and thrilled to find she not only mended, but with further therapy, she flew again. As the fracture healed, monitoring revealed the kite had a good chance of release ...  an all-too-rare occurrence for that sort of injury. The three hatch year kites were found orphaned in the field, nests destroyed or too damaged to return them to the parents. Elliott says the young kites were nursed to health and then raised with kite hand puppets to insure the kites didn't imprint on their human rescuers. As most of the North American kites have already migrated through, there was some concern that these kites might be released too late to migrate, but with the head start in releasing them in Texas farther along the migration route, and the inclusion of an adult in the group, Elliott hopes the migration and leadership instincts will take over and the adult will lead its little band of kites southward.

The kites were released simultaneously in the Hazel Bazemore Park river bottoms, after a little orientation time in the hand to look over their new territory. All four took to wing immediately with no hesitation; splitting into two groups of two. Two of the hatch year kites made immediate tracks southward towards the hawk watch hill; the adult and other hatch year peeled off north, then circled the area, getting bearings. Time will tell if they will attempt to move on, or try to spend the season here. For once, we're very glad our insect population is bounding from better than usual rains in the spring, summer and fall. Our hawk watchers will be keeping an eye out for our guests during the remaining days of watch (which runs through November 15th).

Page created October 24, 1999. Updated September 15, 2000 with gratitude once again to the wonderful folks at the SC Center for Birds of Prey. Please support your local raptor rehabilitation agencies.