Fort Hays State University setting up barriers to stave off bird attacks

A group of Mississippi kites has made its presence known on the campus of Fort Hays State...
A group of Mississippi kites has made its presence known on the campus of Fort Hays State University.(KWCH)
Published: Aug. 10, 2022 at 3:23 PM CDT
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HAYS, Kan. (KWCH) - Classes at Fort Hays State University begin Aug. 22, and students and staff are being warned about potential bird attacks on campus.

The university said a pair of Mississippi kites have nested in a tree between Forsyth Library and Malloy Hall on Campus Drive, and one is “vigorously defending the surrounding area of several hundred yards.”

The university erected a 20-foot perimeter of barricades and bright yellow “caution” tape around a tree inhabited by the kites. The birds are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

The small birds of prey have been known to dive-bomb intruders that come too close to their nest, according to the university. Other reports include people being thumped on the head from the knuckles of the bird’s rolled talons. So far, there have been no reports of serious injuries. The university said if you experience an injury related to a kite strike, especially one that leaves a cut or contusion, you should seek medical attention to avoid possible infection.

The birds have people on campus looking up warily.

“They get that nice dive-bomb technique,” said FHSU student Mason Duskie.

With the kites’ bird’s-eye view, unsuspecting humans below on Fort Hays State’s campus are easy targets.

“Especially if you’re in a group of people, you might just think someone smacked you on the back of the head, and you look around and then the bird’s swooping back down trying to hit you again,” Duskie said.

Fort Hays State University Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences Dr. Medhavi Ambardar studies the birds. She said Mississippi kites are common across the plains, including in Kansas. Dr. Ambardar said she’s been watching the family of kites nesting this summer and that the culprit of the swooping appears to be just one of the birds. What makes the action unusual, she said, is that this type of aggressive behavior isn’t typical for kites.

“Statistics where maybe 15 to 20 percent of Mississippi kites are that aggressive, when they will divebomb people, because we’re a lot bigger than they are,” Dr. Ambardar said.

The situation at Fort Hays State isn’t expected to continue much longer as the time is approaching for the kites to migrate south.

“Next couple of weeks of so, they’re going to start moving out, and for awhile, it’s going to seem like we’re seeing a lot of them, and that’s just the birds moving through the area,” Dr. Ambardar said.

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