Black-winged Kite

Elanus caeruleus
Population status:
Least Concern
Body length:
30–37 cm (11.8-14.5 in)
77–92 cm (30-36 in)
197–343 g (7-12 oz)
Black-shouldered Kite

Munir Virani

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Did You Know?

  • There are four subspecies of the Black-winged Kite
  • While these kites spend most of their days alone, or in pairs, at night everything changes. Sometimes hundreds of them congregate together at roosts. Scientists believe these nighttime flockings may serve as information centers, helping individuals to find new and better foraging areas
  • The Black-Kite's population in Spain appears to be expanding. 

Other Kites

How The Peregrine Fund is Helping

Our efforts in scientific research, habitat conservation, education, and community development help conserve birds of prey around the world. We also supply literature to researchers from our avian research library, which helps scientists around the world gather and share important information on raptor conservation. We also run the Global Raptor Impact Network which gives raptor researchers tools to more efficiently conduct their own studies while contributing to a global program. GRIN also provides citizen scientists a way to participate in raptor science and conservation.

Where They Live

The Black-winged Kite ranges far and wide throughout parts of Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. This beautiful kite prefers to inhabit open areas such as grasslands, fynbos - which encompass unique vegetation and are only found in the southern tip of Africa - agricultural areas, savannas, dry shrub thickets, clearings within forest, marshes, pastures, and edges or medians of roads. It tends to stay away from areas with dense forest cover, or extremely dry deserts. 

What They Do

This agile bird of prey is also very beautiful. It is a perfect blend of black, white and grey feathers, and it is named because of the dark black shoulder patches on its wings. The rest of its back and head are lovely, blended gradients of gray. It has a white underbelly, deep, red eyes, a yellow cere and feet.

If you find yourself in Black-winged Kite territory, spend some time looking any exposed perches you might find, including dead trees, fenceposts, telephone poles, and powerlines, as you might get lucky and find one of these kites perched there. Don't forget to look as well, but not too high. You can sometimes see this kite hovering low over open fields. It is sometimes active before dawn and during the twilight hours. 

Why They Need our Help

So far, things are looking good for the Black-winged Kite. In fact, it is one of the most common raptors throughout much of its range. In fact, in some areas, population numbers have increased in response to the conversion of large areas of woodland to agricultural uses. This raptor is categorized as a species of "Least Concern."

What They Eat

This kite is a master at catching rodents. However, it will also take reptiles, insects, bats, and even other birds, such as larks and doves.

This kite has adapted a number of different hunting techniques in order to catch its quarry. At times, it might sit on a perch watching for unsuspecting prey to wander by, at which point it darts from the perch and scoops up its prey from the ground. At other times, it captures prey on the wing, or it might hover over a field, flapping its wings as it stays in one place in mid-air, descending down to grasp its prey when the time is right. Or, it might fly slowly, not far above the ground, searching for food. This is called quartering.The Black-winged Kite is known to hang around grass fires in order to hunt any small wildlife escaping the smoke and flames. 

Nests, Eggs, and Young

Depending on where the Black-winged Kite lives within its range, it may breed at nearly any time of the year or during a well-defined breeding season. These kites build their own nests. They collect sticks and twigs which they use to construct a rather flimsy nest, usually in the fork of a small tree or a palm. They line the nest with twigs or dry grasses.

The female will lay between 3-5 eggs, which she will be in charge of incubating for the next 30-35 days. While she is busy caring for the eggs, the male is out hunting to make sure she has enough to eat. After the nestlings hatch, they will grow quickly, gaining weight and muscle, and their flight feathers will begin to emerge. By the time they are between 30-40 days they will be big and strong enough to fly from the nest for the first time. Once they are out of the nest, the young kites must learn quickly. In only a few months, they will need to be able to hunt on their own and will leave their parents' territory. Unlike many raptor species, the Black-winged Kite will often raise several groups of young almost back to back. 

Black-winged Kite and the World Center for Birds of Prey

The World Center for Birds of Prey offers fun ways to learn about all birds of prey. Interactive activities, tours, interesting videos, and a children's room with activities from coloring sheets to quizzes to costumes await you. The visitor center has many live raptors on display, and in the fall you can observe some of the raptors showing off their flying skills during our Fall Flight Shows. This is a great chance to see birds of prey up close and learn about the wonderful and interesting adaptations they have in order to survive in their respective habitats. There is also a touch table with feathers and other natural objects available for exploration. Our knowledgeable staff is on hand year-round to answer any questions you may have about the Black-winged Kite or any other bird of prey


Global Raptor Information Network. 2021. Species account: Black-winged Kite Elanus caeruleus. Downloaded from on 2 Sep. 2021

Kemp, A. C., G. M. Kirwan, J. S. Marks, A. Motis, and E. F. J. Garcia (2020). Black-winged Kite (Elanus caeruleus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.