Swooping down from high above the treetops, the Mississippi kite, a hawk-like bird of prey, dive-bombed a perceived threat on the ground.
The kite came from behind its target, a jogger, and dished out two quick thumps to the jogger’s head and neck. Luckily, the kites, a raptor that nests in central Oklahoma in summer, typically gives a warning strike with closed feet and not open claws, a wildlife biologist said.
Along the grassy median of N Grand Boulevard just west of N May Avenue, the jogger reeled from the jolts and left the area. The gray wingspan of the kite could be seen circling the tree where it nested and the jogger had passed under.
A number of joggers have reported aggressive kites near Lake Hefner in recent years, an Oklahoma City parks official said.
“If they have a nest nearby and they have young, they get pretty protective,” said Don Brown, a spokesman at the state Wildlife Conservation Department.
Kites are numerous in Oklahoma City in June and July, said Mark Howery, a wildife biologist at the Wildlife Department. Adult kites are about a foot long have a 3-foot-long wingspan. They feed on grasshoppers, cicadas and other insects mostly but may prey on small reptiles or other birds, he said.
Kites are migratory and nest in Oklahoma May through September. Their chicks do not hatch until around July 4, Howery said.
In Nichols Hills, the parks with tall trees attract kites each summer, mostly in Kite Park and Grand Park. The city has posted warning signs related to the birds.
Police Maj. Steven Cox, Nichols Hills police spokesman, said there have been reports of kites dive-bombing joggers and striking people in past summers. He said the Nichols Hills animal control officer keeps track of the kites and their activity. He said people have said they have actually knocked the hats off of joggers too.
“They think we are predators and they are trying to protect their young,” Cox said. “They (kites) are definitely out there. We have signs posted describing what the birds will do.
“Our animal control officer has seen them out there this year.”
Howery said kites also have been known to dive-bomb dogs, cats, raccoons and even horses. Golfers and joggers in parks may threaten the kites.