This creature is what the Swallow-tailed Kites and the Mississippi Kites were after in the South Georgia field described in my last post. It is a June Beetle (Cotinus nitida). When I was growing up in Indiana, we called them “June Bugs”, and sometimes we would tie a piece of thread to one of their legs and hold on as they flew through the air.
Larvae of these beetles damage the roots of many plants both ornamental and cultivated. The adults eat fruit, especially peaches, and gain entrance by plowing through the skin of the fruit with the horn on the front of their head.
When we visited the field with the kites, many of these beetles were crawling around on the plants, and many were flying about above the field and around the trees on the other side of the road. The kites were very adept at catching them. They would dive down, skim the surface of the field and use one foot to grab one of the beetles. Then they would eat the beetle on the wing. They did not swallow the beetle whole; they used their beak to dismantle the insect and eat the parts they wanted. Wings and parts of the beetle’s exoskeleton were discarded and could be seen drifting down from the birds as they flew past.
What a sight to see!
I have included below a gallery of some other images of the kites. )If you subscribe to this blog by email, you may have to click the link at the very bottom of the email to see the gallery.)