The Fine Art of Feeding

Over the past few weeks I’ve managed to collect a few Black-shouldered Kite feeding routines.

It always involves the male of the pair doing the hunting. Often times the female will fly out meet him and take it from him in the air.

It seems to me there are at least three techniques used by the birds.

1. Scary:  He hangs motionless in the air with the mouse presented on an extended foot.  She sweeps in at a great speed, flips upside down, claws out, and takes the mouse. The stress on his leg must be quite large as this a non-stop movement.
2. Dainty:  Again he hangs midair, she lines up from underneath and plucks the mouse with her beak.  She is practically motionless at the point of contact.
3.  Easy, but under pressure.  This is always a branch transfer. The main reason I think is that it might be easier on the male, but most times its because of prying eyes circling about to see what chance they have of taking off with a free lunch. Usually once it has been transferred she will sit mantling the food until she feels safe to deal with it.

When the young are very small, Mum will prepare the food, and then go to the nest and feed small pieces to each of the youngsters.  As they grow, she delivers, but they feed, and before fledgling Dad will deliver straight to the nest. The young will share the meal.

Once they are on the wing, some feeding takes place on the nest, and as they grow more confident in the air, the male will hang the mouse down and give the young a chance to hone their flying skills.  It has to be said that a hungry young one is more enthusiasm than skill, but that improves rapidly. In the end they can gracefully take it from his dangling claw.

So let’s illustrate some of those techniques.

Lining up for an approach
All systems Go!
Precision
And away

 

Another mid-air claw to beak transfer.
Transfering from a branch. She has rushed in and nearly knocks him from the branch.
The female, mantling over a mouse as a squadron of Black Kites waits for an opportunity to help themselves.
With no flight skills to speak of this is not going to go well for the young one.
Juvenile, “Hold still Dad, I’ve got it.”
Missed by… That much…
Turning back for a second run
You can’t fly through Dad to get to the mouse
All wings, legs and loud voice, but the angle of attack is all wrong
Sailing past, but no mouse.