Occurrence of the White-Tailed Kite in Central California
Occurrence of the White-tailed Kite in Central California in 1913
In the belief that even fragmentary notes concerning rare or disappearing species will prove of decided interest in the course of time, I offer the following notes in regard to the White-tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus), a species once numerous in west-central California.
On August 27, 1913, at 5 P. M., two White-tailed Kites were seen circling over a meadow near a line of willows bordering the Russian River near Forestville, Sonoma County. The birds were not over one hundred yards from the train, from which Mrs. Grinnell and I obtained a most satisfactory view of them.
On October 15, 1913, at 8:20 A. M., three White-tailed Kites flew close over the duckblind which I was occupying, on the Suisun marsh near Cygnus, Solano County. I saw individual birds twice again the same morning; and Mr. W. W. Richards, owner of the duck-preserve upon which my observations were made, informed me that he frequently sees the same sort of bird about the marshes there.
With no doubt whatever, the present rarity of this hawk in California is due to its associational preference for marshes, where its habit of flying slowly back and forth at a moderate height above the ground on the lookout for meadow mice and insects make it an easy target for the thoughtless gunner. In my experience the average sportsman is still unenlightened enough to shoot down any sort of "hawk" that flies his way, provided game is not at the moment expected.
The above records, together with those of Mr. Howard Wright in THE CONDOR for September, 1913 (page 184), indicate that there are yet a few of these beautiful and harmless birds at widely separated stations within the state. I had not myself seen the species previously since 1903, near Palo Alto.
California Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, Berkeley, California.