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Swallow-tailed Kite


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The lilting Swallow-tailed Kite has been called “the coolest bird on the planet.” With its deeply forked tail and bold black-and-white plumage, it is unmistakable in the summer skies above swamps of the Southeast. Flying with barely a wingbeat and maneuvering with twists of its incredible tail, it chases dragonflies or plucks frogs, lizards, snakes, and nestling birds from tree branches. After rearing its young in a treetop nest, the kite migrates to wintering grounds in South America.


When disturbed, Swallow-tailed Kites give a loud, squeaky whistle, usually repeated several times. To deter a predator, they may call while circling and attract up to 20 or more other kites to join in on the effort. During courtship they give a long, upward-slurring whistle.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Find This Bird

The best place to look for Swallow-tailed Kites in the U.S. is in Florida, although these spectacular birds also take to the skies above wooded wetlands across six other southeastern states. Befitting their aerial nature, scattered individuals also rarely but regularly turn up far to the north of their normal range. To find Swallow-tailed Kites, keep your eyes on the skies, as these light and graceful birds spend most of the day aloft, either skimming the treetops or soaring up high. Remember that these birds leave the U.S. after the breeding season, so summer is the time to look for them.



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