Double-toothed Kite

Harpagus bidentatus
Population status:
Least Concern
Body length:
29–35 cm (11-13.7 in)
60–72 cm (23.6-28 in)
161–229 g (5.8-8 oz)
Perched Double-toothed Kite

Angel Muela

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Did You Know?

  • There are two recognized subspecies of the Double-toothed Kite
  • In 2011, the first Double-toothed Kite was documented in the United States. It was seen and photographed in Texas.
  • In parts of its range, this species regularly follows troops of some monkey species. But they aren't hunting the monkeys. They are trailing them in the hopes that the monkeys will flush up something tasty for the kite to prey upon. 

Other Kites

How The Peregrine Fund is Helping

From 1988 to 1996, The Peregrine Fund was dedicated to studying Neotropical birds of prey in the Peten region of Guatemala in an ambitious undertaking called the Maya Project. All the information gathered on diet, nesting, threats and behavior helped contribute to the scientific world's knowledge of many of these species.This is important because the more we know about a species, the better we are able to help conserve it. The Peregrine Fund published the results of the Maya Project in a book called "Neotropical Birds of Prey, Biology and Ecology of a Forest Raptor Community."

Additionally, our efforts in scientific research, habitat conservation, education, and community development help conserve raptors on a global scale. 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 support the Neotropical Raptor Network - a group that helps conserve birds of prey by improving communication and collaboration among raptor enthusiasts throughout the region!

Where They Live

The Double-toothed Kite is a Neotropical bird of prey. It is found from southern Mexico into Central America, including in Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama.  Its range continues south into South America, including in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname, Venezuela and Brazil. It is also found on Trinidad and Tobago.

This beautiful bird of prey makes its home in a wide variety of habitats throughout this range. It is generally found at low to middle elevations in primary forests, upland forests, and forest edges.

What They Do

You probably know that birds don't have teeth. In fact, the evolution of a lightweight beak is one of the things that helped birds become light enough to fly! So, if birds don't have even one tooth, let alone two, what does the name "double-toothed" actually mean? Well, in this sense we need to think more of the "teeth" of a saw, rather than anatomical teeth! Double-toothed Kites were given this name for their tomial "teeth," pointy "tooth-like" notches on their upper mandible

This kite spends quite a bit of time soaring high in the sky. It is generally solitary, spending most of its time alone. During breeding season, they can sometimes be seen as pairs, sometimes accompanied by a juvenile.

Why They Need our Help

The Double-toothed Kite is pretty common throughout the majority of its widespread range. It is categorized as a species of "Least Concern" by the IUCN, but this doesn't mean that this species isn't facing any threats. In fact, deforestation is probably one of the biggest threats to the future of this species. Double-toothed Kites, especially at the egg and nestling stage, also face threats from other predators. In fact, researchers have documented nests being predated upon by toucans and other raptors!

What They Eat

This raptor uses its keen eyesight, sharp talons and strong feet to find and capture its prey. The majority of its food consists of lizards such as anoles, geckos and iguanas, and insects, such as butterflies, cicadas, grasshoppers, katydids, beetles, wasps, caterpillars, and cockroaches.  It will also hunt bats. One researcher observed a Double-toothed Kite catching bats as the flew through the air, and another researcher observed them catching Tent-making Bats while the latter were roosting. But it will also sometimes take birds, snakes and even rodents.

As you can imagine, a raptor must adapt its hunting techniques depending on what prey animal it is hoping to catch. It probably most often hunts from a perch, sitting and waiting patiently to swoop down on passing prey. It might also run along tree branches in pursuit of prey, or grab slow-flying insects in mid-air.

Nests, Eggs, and Young

When it comes time to build a nest, the female is the one that does all of the heavy lifting, so to speak. She will build a cup nest made of sticks and twigs, high in the fork of a tree, or on a bromeliad clump. Though not always, Double-toothed Kites seem to prefer nesting at forest edges.

When the time is right, the female will lay 1-2 eggs, which are white with brown markings. After the eggs are laid, the majority of the work caring for them also falls to the female. She will incubate her eggs for around 42-45 days to ensure that they remain safe and at the right temperature so that embryos inside develop into healthy hatchlings. Even after the young hatch, the female sticks very close by. She must brooding her young and feed them. But don't worry. She isn't all alone. During this time, the male is also carrying out a very important task. He is working hard to find enough food to feed himself, the female and his offspring!  

When the nestlings hatch, they are covered in white down. But, they will develop quickly and need lots of good food to help them grow. By the time they are only 23 days old they will be the same size as their parents. When they reach 27-37 days old they will be ready to fly from the nest for the first time. But even though they are out of the nest, the young will still be dependent upon the parents for at least two months, probably longer. During this time, the young gain skills in hunting and avoiding danger, so that when they disperse from their parents' territory, they will have a better chance at surviving. 

Double-toothed 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 Double-toothed Kite or any other bird of prey


Bierregaard, R. O., J. S. Marks, and G. M. Kirwan (2020). Double-toothed Kite (Harpagus bidentatus), 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.

BirdLife International. 2020. Harpagus bidentatusThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020: e.T22695060A168674029. Downloaded on 21 August 2021.

Fontaine, R., 1980. Observations on the foraging association of double-toothed kites and white-faced capuchin monkeys. The Auk97(1), pp.94-98.

Global Raptor Information Network. 2021. Species account: Double-toothed Kite Harpagus bidentatus. Downloaded from on 20 Aug. 2021

Schulze, M.D., CÓrdova, J.L., Seavy, N.E. and Whitacre, D.F., 2000. Behavior, diet, and breeding biology of Double-toothed Kites at a Guatemalan lowland site. The Condor102(1), pp.113-126.