Did you ever get restless and feel like moving on? Flying south for the winter? If so,you too have Zugunruhe…the anxious, restless behavior of a migratory species, especially found in birds. It is sort of like a sailor being on land too long..the restless call of the sea beckons, and away they go.
On this Beyond the Broward excursion, I witnessed firsthand the “Zugunruhe” of the Swallow-tailed Kite. The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology describes this unique raptor as follows; “A strikingly marked raptor of wetlands in the southeastern United States, the Swallow-tailed Kite captures flying insects or plucks insects and lizards from the tops of trees.” They forgot to mention tree snakes also. They can often be seen eating the catch while still flying. Each summer thousands of Swallow-tailed Kites gather in flocks of hundreds in South and Central Florida to begin the long migration back home to Brazil. Each spring they return, traveling thousands of miles to the southeastern US to breed before the Zugunruhe again calls them home.
Soaring on thermals, the Swallow-tailed Kite rises high on broad wings, which they seldom flap. The long scissor like tail is used as a rudder to turn and steer them through the air. The aerobatic maneuvers I observed included fast steep dives from thousands of feet, followed by barrel rolls, loops, summersaults, and wingovers that would make even the best fighter pilot pass out from the number of G’s pulled. They look like huge black tornado formations as they “kettle” over the cypress trees, circling higher and higher before departing to forage or coming in at evening to roost for the night. Often in the morning before leaving to eat, some of them swoop down, skimming low over the river to grab a fresh gulp of water or wash their tail feathers. This skimming behavior is one of the most challenging photographs I have ever attempted. Our guide, Ron, made it look easy. It wasn’t, I can assure you.
I feel a bit of Zugunruhe myself as I watch these restless birds longing for home. My spirit man grows more restless each day as time passes and the world around us seemingly seems to disintegrate into chaos. Until the trumpet sounds...Be blessed. Harry