This swallow-tailed kite was gliding and soaring on the air currents just above the pines. The graceful bird of prey circled and circled, at one point breaking into a vertical dive, rising up a moment later with a lizard that it ate on the wing. It even averted a near collision with a turkey vulture hunting for scraps.
Rarely beating its wings in flight, forked tail spread, these kites are beautiful to watch.
“Marked among its kind by no ordinary beauty of form and brilliancy of color, the Kite courses through the air with a grace and buoyancy it would be vain to rival. By a stroke of the thin-bladed wings and a lashing of the cleft tail, its flight is swayed to this or that side in a moment, or instantly arrested.” — American ornithologist Elliott Coues (1874)
Readying for the dive…
“They dive in rapid succession amongst the branches, glancing along the trunks, and seizing in their course the insects and small lizards of which they are in quest. Their motions are astonishingly rapid, and the deep curves which they describe, their sudden doublings and crossings, and the extreme ease with which they seem to cleave the air, excite the admiration of him who views them while thus employed in searching for food.” — John James Audubon
Audubon had painted a swallow-tailed eating a snake on the wing, just as this kite ate its prey in flight.
“… on wing they move with a grace and ease which it is Impossible to describe …” — Audubon.
The swallow-tailed kite is present in Florida from March to August.