- ORDER: Accipitriformes
- FAMILY: Accipitridae
A raptor that looks like it borrowed a parrot's bill, the Hook-billed Kite haunts wooded streams and rainforests across much of Latin America, with a few individuals reaching South Texas along the Rio Grande. They hunt for snails inside tree canopies, using their curved bills as a wedge to crack the shells. Males are elegant gray above, with barred underparts and tail. Females are brown on the back with chestnut barring below. Hook-billed Kites are distinctive in flight, with broad, rounded wings that are strongly barred black and white.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Hook-billed Kites are fairly common across much of their range, but often inconspicuous as they search for tree snails hidden in the canopy. Finding one in the United States is challenging; the best area lies along the Rio Grande between Falcon Dam and Santa Ana. Wherever you look for them, start early in the morning to listen for their calls. By mid-morning, they may be soaring, so scan the skies. A pile of fresh snail shells under a perch is also a good sign of their presence.
- Milano Picogarfio (Spanish)
- Bec-en-croc de Temminck (French)
- Cool Facts
- All Hook-billed Kites have impressive bills—but in most areas you'll find that their bills come in two sizes: some have very large bills; others are smaller. Strangely, bill size isn't connected to a bird's sex, age, or color morph. It's possible that the two different bill sizes reduce competition for food by permitting some individuals to feed on smaller snails (sometimes different species altogether) and some on larger snails.
- The Cuban Kite is a critically endangered species endemic to Cuba, sometimes recognized as a full species. On Grenada, the subspecies mirus of Hook-billed Kite is also endangered—part of a global pattern in which island species are often vulnerable to extinction.