Black Shouldered Kite

© Karl Svendsen


Black Shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus)

Black Shouldered Kite Appearance

The black-shouldered kite is a small but distinctive bird of prey with grey and white plumage and a black shoulder patch. This kite has dark red eyes as an adult and yellow to orange eyes as a juvenile. The bill is black and the legs, feet and cere are yellow. The black-shouldered kite will grow to a maximum of 30 cm in length.
The black-shouldered kite is often seen hovering in search of prey. In flight, the underpart of the wings is white or pale grey, with the last third of the wing being black.

Black Shouldered Kite Diet

The black-shouldered kite feeds primarily on small rodents, but will hunt birds, lizards and insects. Field mice make up most of their diet.

Black Shouldered Kite Breeding

The black-shouldered kite is monogamous and breeding takes place throughout the year. The nest is built by both male and female kites and is placed just below the tree canopy. There are between 2 and 6 eggs laid and incubated by the female for around 30 days. The male will feed the female on the nest. The chicks will leave the nest after around 30 days and be independent between 40 to 70 days.

Black Shouldered Kite Behaviour

The black-shouldered kite feeds by quartering grasslands looking for small rodents, it does this mostly by hovering. The kite hovers facing into the wind at a height of around 10 to 15 m. When prey is spotted, the kite will drop feet first with its wings raised. The prey is taken in its talons and is either eaten on the wing or carried to a perch. The black-shouldered kite will also hunt from a perch.

Black Shouldered Kite Threats


Distribution and Habitat

The black-shouldered kite is a common resident through the whole of South Africa. The kite is somewhat nomadic in the response of prey distribution.
Found in grasslands and cultivated areas. May also be found in woodlands.