• Welcome to BirdForum, the internet's largest birding community with thousands of members from all over the world. The forums are dedicated to wild birds, birding, binoculars and equipment and all that goes with it.

    Please register for an account to take part in the discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.
ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

Black-shouldered Kite - BirdForum Opus

Black-shouldered Kite redirects here. For the species Elanus caeruleus, see Black-winged Kite
Alternative Name: Australian Kite

Photo by Neil Fifer
Near Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, December 2003
Elanus axillaris


35 to 38 cm in length and have a wingspan of between 80 and 95 cm.
Adult Black-shouldered Kites are pale grey with a white head and white underparts. The leading edge of the inner wing is black which is visible when perched and the reason for their name.

Similar species

Letter-winged Kite is the same size. It has a black mask which does not extend behind the eye (Black-shouldered's does). Its distinctive black underwing pattern extends to all coverts to give a fully black "arm": the black of Black-shouldered is restricted to the primaries and their coverts. In other parts of the world, other Elanus are similar.


Present species is endemic to Australia.


Photo by aussietrev
Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia

This is a monotypic species[1].

This taxon has been split from Elanus caeruleus (of Africa and Eurasia) which is called Black-winged Kite in Opus. One additional species from the same complex is White-tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus). However, several taxonomic authorities still use the name Black-shouldered Kite for Elanus caeruleus, and Australian Kite for the present species. There is therefore a lot of confusion in the naming of these species.


Open woodland and grasslands; coastal sand dunes and salt marshes. Gardens, roadsides, sewage farms; overgrown scrub land


Photo by bryanhj
Sydney Olympic Park, New South Wales, October 2007

The diet consists mostly of mice. Grasshoppers, rats, small reptiles, and birds, are also taken.


  1. Clements, JF. 2009. The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World. 6th ed., with updates to December 2009. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0801445019.
  2. Wikipedia
  3. BF Member Observations

Recommended Citation

External Links

GSearch checked for 2020 platform.1

GSearch checked for 2020 platform.1