Living Bird Magazine
White-tailed KiteElanus leucurus
- ORDER: Accipitriformes
- FAMILY: Accipitridae
Grasslands and savannas are great places to fly a kite and that's exactly where you will find the White-tailed Kite, flying as if it were attached to a kite string. With its body turned toward the wind and wings gently flapping, it hovers above the ground, a behavior that’s so distinctive it’s become known as kiting. From above it tips its head down to look for small mammals moving in the grass below. Its white underparts, gleaming white tail, and black shoulder patches are its other marks of distinction.More ID Info
Find This Bird
White-tailed Kites have a limited distribution in the United States, so your best bet is to head to a grassland in California or Texas. They generally start foraging just after dawn, when you'll likely catch them hovering into the wind with their head hanging down. You might also be able to catch them hovering in grassy fields at the edges of highways as you drive by. During the nonbreeding season, head out around dusk to watch groups come into roost in trees and tall shrubs at the edges of grasslands.
- Elanio Maromero (Spanish)
- Élanion à queue blanche (French)
- Cool Facts
- During the nonbreeding season, the White-tailed Kite roosts communally. Sometimes more than 100 individuals pile into a few trees or tall shrubs at the edge of a grassland or savanna.
- White-tailed Kites have a tiny range in the U.S., but they occur throughout the Americas, breeding as far south as Chile and Argentina. A closely related and very similar species, the Black-shouldered Kite, occurs across Europe, Africa, and Asia.
- The oldest recorded White-tailed Kite was at least 6 years old when it was found in California.