White-Tailed Kite
Kingdom
Phylum
Class
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Elanus leucurus
Population size
500,000-5 Mln
Life Span
6 years
Weight
250-380
8.8-13.4
goz
g oz 
Length
35-43
13.8-16.9
cminch
cm inch 
Wingspan
88-102
34.6-40.2
cminch
cm inch 

The White-tailed kite (Elanus leucurus) is a small raptor found in North America and parts of South America. These are birds of open country with extremely sharp eyesight suited for rodent and small mammal hunting.

Appearance

The coloration of the White-tailed kite is gull-like, but its shape and flight are falcon-like, with a rounded tail. Mainly white underneath, it has black wingtips and shoulders. Its wings and tail are relatively elongated.

Distribution

Geography

White-tailed kites are found in western North America, Central America, and parts of South America. These birds inhabit coastal areas, marshes, river valleys, grasslands, savannas, and shrublands. They can also be found in urban areas and in farm country.

White-Tailed Kite habitat map

Climate zones

White-Tailed Kite habitat map
White-Tailed Kite
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Habits and Lifestyle

White-tailed kites are social birds and outside the breeding season, they often roost communally in groups of up to 100. During the breeding season, however, they become very territorial and may engage in aerial combat at the margins of their territories, locking talons in the behavior knowns as "grappling". White-tailed kites are diurnal; they hunt by day patrolling or hovering over lowland scrub or grassland looking for prey. When prey is spotted, the bird swoops down onto it with talons out. When White-tailed kites feel threatened they produce a call described as 'plee-wit, plee-wit', when fighting other birds, they use shrills and whistles. When at the nest, the birds communicate with each other producing 'keep-keep-keep' whistles.

Seasonal behavior
Bird's call

Diet and Nutrition

White-tailed kites are carnivores and feed mainly on rodents. Other prey items may include gophers, rats, mice, shrews, and rabbits. They may also consume birds, insects, lizards, snakes, and frogs.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
INCUBATION PERIOD
25-28 days
INDEPENDENT AGE
2 months
BABY NAME
chick
web.animal_clutch_size
3-5 eggs

White-tailed kites are serially monogamous and form pair bonds that last during the breeding season. When the pair is formed, both the male and the female build a small nest at a treetop which they reuse year after year. The female lays 3 to 5 eggs and incubates them about 25 to 28 days; during this time the male provides her with food. The chicks are altricial; they hatch helpless and are covered in down. They fledge around 35 days later but will remain with their parents for another month more.

Population

Population threats

The main threats to White-tailed kites include habitat loss, shooting, egg collection, and the use of pesticides.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total White-tailed kite population size is around 500,000-4,999,999 individuals. According to the All About Birds resource, the total population size of the species is 2 million birds. Overall, currently, White-tailed kites are classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and their numbers today are increasing.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • White-tailed kites have a gull-like coloration but in flight, these birds look like falcons.
  • Sometime later after eating their prey, White-tailed kites regurgitate pellets with fur, bones, and feathers which were not disgested.
  • White-tailed kites are able to hover in the air without beating their wings; this distinctive ability of kites is known as 'kiting'.
  • In order to attract a female, or to strengthen the pair bond, the male White-tailed kite will offer her an item of prey in a spectacular display. The female will fly up, turn upside-down, and then accept the prey in the midair.

References

1. White-Tailed Kite on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White-tailed_kite
2. White-Tailed Kite on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22695036/93486216
3. Xeno-canto bird call - https://xeno-canto.org/645731

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