Nature lovers, dog walkers, and joggers visiting Oconee Forest Park were treated to an unusual spectacle in August when a young Mississippi kite took up a perch just above a popular trail in the park’s off-leash dog area.
Mississippi kites are migratory raptors that come to the Southeast every summer and breed in small numbers throughout the state before flying south for the winter. They have since left the park.
Richard Hall, an assistant research scientist at the Odum School of Ecology and president of the Oconee Rivers Audubon Society, first spotted the kites on an early-morning bird walk.
“Because of the high usage the area receives, it’s not the first place you’d think of to find rare or unusual species,” Hall said. “But Oconee Forest Park supports a surprising diversity of birds, with more than 170 species recorded there.”
Hall posted his photographs of the adult Mississippi kitefeeding cicadas to its offspring on his blog, http://surfbirds.com/blog/rjhall, prompting an influx of birders to the park.
“The park has a good range of habitats that attract different kinds of birds, with the large open water of Lake Herrick, the small lake in the off-leash dog area and lots of wooded areas, but it’s small enough that you can walk the whole thing in less than an hour,” Hall said. “It’s a great resource for observing nature at UGA.”
Hall said that some of the best times to spot birds are during the early morning hours in the fall and spring, when migratory birds are passing through the area.
For those who want to learn more, the Oconee Rivers Audubon Society offers regular bird walks during the fall; the schedule is posted online at
Or, if you find yourself at Oconee Forest Park early one morning, look for Hall—he’ll be there with his binoculars and camera and will be glad to introduce you to the park’s feathered visitors.