Aren't bird kites great! I'll never forget heading off down the jetty at a local kite festival one day, and catching sight of a seagull swooping low amongst some of the nearest kites. For just a moment, I actually thought the pearly white bird with orange beak was a kite! The gull had wings outstretched and was not flapping at the time, which enhanced the illusion.
A bit of a trawl through our archives of kite festival photos yielded a surprising variety of designs which were based on bird species. In the sections below there's a few photos, with comments on each, regarding construction and flying characteristics.A design like this Paradise Bird Kite available from Amazon is a typical sturdy beach kite for family outings. See the large number of positive reviews in there.
Isn't this one a real beauty! Walking up over a sand dune towards the jetty, this eye-catching bird kite came into view. It was flying low, but steady as anything and was tethered near the other side of the jetty.
Just couldn't resist pulling out the camera...
If you look carefully near the tail, you can see some solid spars holding the shape. Could be dowel, since anything fancier would surely be a bit thinner. The body is 3D, with some sort of smooth shell covered in the sail material. You can also see dowel spars through the sail material of the wings.
A really nice touch is those wing-tip 'feathers'. In real life, these give eagles and hawks a performance boost by reducing drag forces. Thus the wing becomes more efficient.
Some reading on the topic of these kinds of kites gave me the impression they are not always successful fliers! You have to wonder what the history of the pictured kite was. How many prototypes were modified or scrapped before this one took off and really proved its airworthiness?
An update: I have now met the owner. Apparently this kite was his first construction attempt ever! Remarkable.
Featuring fiber-glass spars and quite realistic artwork on the sail fabric.
On a trip to Singapore to meet with relatives there, I discovered that my brother-in-law Terry had bought this fine-looking kite. Near the end of our stay, we got a chance to go to a local flying spot and put the kite up. There it is in the photo, sharing the sky with numerous other kites of all descriptions.
Plenty of Bird kites and Deltas! In fact, up near the top left edge of the photo, I'm fairly sure the high-flying kite was another identical Light-Wind Eagle. Must be popular!
The photo isn't the greatest, but the printed design on the kite fabric is very realistic. Almost photo-realistic from a distance. The material would be either rip-stop nylon or perhaps polyester.
Construction was different to anything I had ever seen, with a long bowed fiber-glass rod holding the wings outstretched. In flight, this resulted in a kind of soggy feel, somewhat like many store-bought Deltas. In other words, any sudden increase in line tension would tend to get absorbed by the kite, before it wallowed upwards in response. More rigid kites tend to zip rather than wallow!
This eagle kite could be a little tricky low down, becoming more stable at higher line angles and of course in the smoother air up higher. But we had fun, in the very light, shifty winds on the coast of Singapore. Another characteristic worth mentioning... Above a certain wind-speed, this kite actually starts to flap quite realistically!
Now, if you have trawled around this site quite a bit over the years, you have probably bumped into this photo before...
It's an example of a Delta kite dressed up as a bird kite. A bit fake near the nose, where it's just painted-on, but getting fancier along the trailing edge!
See how the flames dance in the wind, and the bird actually has a flaming tail too.
The Delta's sail is a light sky-blue. Trying to hide it against the sky I guess, to heighten the flaming-bird illusion! Or perhaps not, since clear plastic would do an even better job of that...
A really nice Delta kite if you ask me, with pretty standard construction. Floating leading-edge spars and rigid spreader.
Funny or cute or something. Whatever it is, this kite is another eye-turner. It's quite a good size, but doesn't compare with the biggest of the kite-festival inflatable giants. Does it belong with the other bird kites on this page?
Well, owls are birds, so it seems logical enough to me! To take the analogy further, owls are very quiet in the air, as are most single-line kites. Alright, alright, moving on...
This kite looks good from a long distance because of the bold shapes and colors used in its construction. No spars of course, just cleverly designed openings on the upwind side to keep the shape inflated and generating a modest amount of lift to keep the kite off the sand.
Another Inflatable Owl Kite. Not quite as striking design-wise, in my humble opinion. But perhaps more visible due to the choice of Day-Glo Orange!
Not sure about this, but it might have been a lot bigger than the other Owl up there, too. That 4 Wheel Drive vehicle parked on the sand was there as an anchor for a truly enormous Dragon show kite!If you don't have thousands of dollars to spend, a lot of family fun can still be had with something like the Paradise Bird Kite from Amazon.
That's it for Bird Kites. Hope you enjoyed the pictures!