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Swallow-tailed Kite

ID Info
Silhouette KitesKites
Swallow-tailed KiteElanoides forficatus
  • ORDER: Accipitriformes
  • FAMILY: Accipitridae

Basic Description

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.

More ID Info
image of range map for Swallow-tailed Kite
Range map provided by Birds of the World
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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.

Other Names

  • Elanio Tijereta (Spanish)
  • Naucler à queue fourchue (French)
  • Cool Facts