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White-tailed Kite - BirdForum Opus

Photo © by mmdnje
Chongon, Guayas Province, Ecuador, December 2005
Elanus leucurus


Photo © by marcsantacurz
Long Marine Lab, Santa Cruz, California, October 2018

35–43 cm (13¾-17 in)

  • Upperparts pale bluish-grey
  • "Shoulder" (upper lesser and median wing coverts) black
  • Underparts white
  • Underwing wing black on restricted to primaries and primary coverts
  • Face mask black does not extend behind the eye

Similar Species

None within range. In other parts of the world, other Elanus are similar.


Very patchy distribution in North, Central, and South America.

In North America breeds in southern California and Texas but increasing and expanding range with breeding north to Oregon and along the Gulf Coast to Florida. In Mexico breeds in southern Baja California and on the east coast from Tamaulipas to the Yucatan Peninsula.

A recent colonist elsewhere in Central America with first breeding in Panama taking place in the 1970s.

Patchy range in South America with breeding in from northern Venezuela and Trinidad to the Guianas, and in southern Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and northern Argentina and central Chile.


Juvenile, subspecies leucurus
Photo © by Rodrigo Conte
Brasilia, Brazil, August 2014

The new world form of the Elanus complex which is comprised of White-tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus), Black-winged Kite (Elanus caeruleus), and Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus axillaris). These three species were until recently considered one species which was then called Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus).


Two subspecies recognised[1]:

  • E. l. majusculus:
  • E. l. leucurus:


Juvenile, subspecies majusculus
Photo © by marcsantacurz
Long Marine Lab, Santa Cruz, California, August 2018

Open woodland and grasslands with scattered trees, often near rivers and lakes.


Outside the breeding season they roost communally in groups of up to 100.


The diet consists mostly of rodents such as mice and voles, with the addition of other small mammals; they will also occasionally hunt birds, reptiles, and amphibians.


Photo © by digishooter
Lake Isabella: Kern Co, California, USA, March 2014

They construct a platform from sticks and place it in the fork of a tree or bush. The clutch consists of 3-5 eggs which are incubated for 30 - 32 days. The young fledge at 5 - 6 weeks.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (retrieved December 2016)
  3. BF Member observations
  4. Blake Scinta

Recommended Citation

External Links

GSearch checked for 2020 platform.