White-tailed Kite

Scientific Name:
Elanus leucurus
Population Status:
Least Concern
Body Length:
15-17 inches
Wingspan:
3 feet
Weight:
10 ounces

Did you know?

  • Many of the North American kites have an eye color that is some shade of red.
  • The White-tailed Kite has a similar hunting strategy and prey preference as the American Kestrel.

Where they live

White-tailed Kites are found from the West Coast and Gulf Coast of the United States to Central America and eastern South America.

Why they need our help

Shooting and egg collecting brought White-tailed Kites close to extinction in California in the 1940s but they have rebounded in some parts of the state. Their range has expanded dramatically in the last 50 years, perhaps because there is more open space, less persecution by people, and an increase in prey. Still, populations in some areas have declined for reasons that are not clear.

What they eat

They prefer small mammals such as mice and voles, but will occasionally hunt reptiles, amphibians, insects, and, rarely, birds. They search for prey from soaring, flapping, or hovering flight, then drop with their wings up and feet dangling to seize prey.

Nest, eggs and young

Nests are a platform of sticks built in the fork of a tree or bush. The female lays 3-5 white and brown eggs that are incubated for 30-32 days. The young fledge at 5-6 weeks of age. If prey is abundant, a second clutch of eggs may be laid.

Conservation Projects


Photo gallery

Photos needed! If you are a photographer and would be willing to donate photos of a White-tailed Kite for use on this site, please contact grin@peregrinefund.org

What makes a raptor a raptor?

Research Resources