The black kite (Milvus migrans) of the family Accipitridae is a bird of prey. These species are known to be the most abundant of this family. They share this family with many diurnal raptors. Georges-Lucas Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, a French polymath, first described the black kite in 1770 in his Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux. The Milvus genus was constructed by Bernard Germain de Lacepede, a French naturalist, in 1799. Milvus is of Latin origin meaning, 'red kite.' The specific name migrans is a derivative of the Latin word migrare meaning 'to migrate' or 'migrating.' It is believed that these red kites hybridized with the black kite. There are five subspecies of black kites: European black kite (M. m. migrans), Black-eared kite (M. m. lineatus), Small Indian kite (M. m. govinda), Fork-tailed kite (M. m. affinis), and Taiwan kite (M. m. formosanus). Few suggested that M. m. lineatus (black-eared kite) needs to be considered as a full species, M. lineatus but this is not well-supported. DNA studies proposed that yellow-billed African species aegyptius and parasites are different from the black kites of Eurasian clade and are considered full allopatric, yellow-billed kites (M. aegyptius). The black kite is a brown-colored species.
Eggs, birds, eggs, carrion, fish, small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and insects.
What do they eat?
Average litter size?
How much do they weigh?
1.3-2 lb (630-940 g)
How long are they?
21.6-23.6 in (55-60 cm)
How tall are they?
What do they look like?
What are their main threats?
What is their conservation status?
Where you'll find them
Rivers, lakes, ponds, wetlands, woodlands, cities, and open savannahs
Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia
Black Kite Interesting Facts
What type of animal is a black kite?
The black kite is a medium-sized bird of prey of the order Accipitriformes and Phylum Chordata.
What class of animal does a black kite belong to?
The black kite belongs to the class Aves of animals.
How many black kites are there in the world?
The current population of the Black kite is around 6 million birds.
Where does a black kite live?
The Black kite occupies and migrates through a wide range of habitats. This population occupies Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. Sometimes the range of the black-eared kite extends into Pacific and Hawaiian islands. The black kite population in India has adapted to living in cities.
What is a black kite's habitat?
Black kites have a broad habitat range. They are found in open areas with water bodies close by, like a river, lake, or pond. They are also found around wetlands, river edges, open savannahs, woodlands, and occasionally in large cities. They also depend on roadkill or rats in Asian and African cities. They are also found in densely populated areas. They build their nests at 26.2-49.2 ft (8-15 m) above the forest grounds, near regions with little cover or water bodies. These birds mostly prefer the mid-canopy region of a tree. However, these birds were found at an elevation of 98.4 ft (30 m).
Who do black kites live with?
Black kites live in a huge group. During the breeding season, these birds are either found in a small group or on their own. These birds are active during the day. They are found in huge communal roosts during the winter season. The black kite birds have more inclination towards forming huge flocks, especially before crossing a river, than any other migratory raptors. Records show that the subspecies M. m. govinda move in response to high rainfall. Siblings show aggression toward the weaker chicks, but an experiment showed that their parents fed the weaker ones first.
How long does a black kite live?
The life span of the Black kite bird is about 20 years.
How do they reproduce?
Black kites breed in the winter around January and February, in India, and the young chicks fledge before the monsoon season. The black kite builds the nest using rags and twigs that are placed in a tree. They use the nest site to be used in subsequent years. The breeding season of birds in Europe is in summer. The Italian Alps' bird builds the nest near a water body in tall trees or cliffs. Nest direction and location differ with rainfall and wind. The male copulates with the female after the birds pair up. The extra pairs copulation takes place oftentimes when the females are unguarded. The males that are back home after foraging copulate with another female to increase the rate of fertilization of their sperm compared to another male. The nest building, care of the chicks, and incubation are done by both males and females. The female lays two to three eggs per season. The incubation period varies between 30-34 days. As per records, the Indian chick population remained in the nest for around two months. The chick populations in Europe hatch later, so they fledge faster. The care of the young also decreases by the pairs as adults start to migrate. The chicks have buff on the back, buff on the underparts, head, and neck. Around the ninth or 12th-day brownish-gray second grows on their body except for the head. Feathers grow around 18-22th day. They stand on their legs around 17-19th day and flap their wings around 27-31st day. Parents guard the nest aggressively.
What is their conservation status?
The populations of the Black kite are listed as Least Concern. However, their population is decreasing, and they are highly affected by agricultural pesticides, water pollution, hunting, and carcass poisoning.
Black Kite Fun Facts
What do black kites look like?
Black kites have a brown dorsal color, and it becomes darker brown as it extends to the tip of their tail and wings. They have black outer flight feathers with dark crossbars that are mottled down the base. The head is light-colored. They have dark brown eyes and hook-shaped beaks for consuming their food. They have a less forked brown tail than a red kite. They have split feathers which gives them a v-shape. They have yellow legs and black talons. They use their talons to grip their prey better. Juveniles have a shorter forked tail and are light-colored.
How cute are they?
Black kites are not considered cute. Black kites are scavengers and opportunistic hunters. These bird species spend their time gliding and soaring in search of food in thermals. They are attracted to smoke and fires and hunt any escaping prey.
How do they communicate?
The black kite communicates through vocalization and physical displays. These birds have a shrill whistle followed by a rapid whinnying call.
How big is a black kite?
The size range of the black kite is 21.6-23.6 in (55-60 cm) in length.
How fast can a black kite fly?
The exact speed of the black kite is not known.
How much does a black kite weigh?
The average weight of the black kite is 1.3-2 lb (630-940 lb).
What are the male and female names of the species?
There is no specific name given to the male and female black kite birds.
What would you call a baby black kite?
There is no specific name given to the baby black kite. They are usually referred to as chicks.
What do they eat?
The black kite diet is piscivorous and insectivorous. They catch live food like fish, mollusks, young ducks, rodents, small birds, reptiles like snakes, eggs, and insects like grasshoppers. They might even feed on small pigeons. In some areas, they will swoop down to snatch food from humans. Black kites in Spain eat nestling waterfowl to feed their young ones.
Are they poisonous?
The black kite is not poisonous.
Would they make a good pet?
The black kite is a bird of prey and would not make a good pet.
Did you know...
A black-winged kite, also called a black-shouldered kite, is a small bird of prey of the same family as the black kites.
The black kite is a large raptor and has very few predators. These birds are natural predators of each other as they steal eggs from their own kind. Another predator is humans.
The black kites have a fewer forked tail, are smaller in size, and usually have darker plumage without rufous. The physical characteristics of a male and a female are similar. Also, they have brown upper plumage whereas a paler head and neck. The patch behind their eyes is darker.
Are black kites endangered?
The black kite is not endangered. The conservation status of black kites is Least Concern.
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