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Black-winged Kite - BirdForum Opus

(Redirected from Elanus caeruleus)

Alternative Name: Black-shouldered Kite[1]

Subspecies E. c. vociferus
Photo by Alok Tewari
Gurgaon Rural, Haryana, India, July-2016
Elanus caeruleus


Size: Ca. 30 cm. (~12 in).

  • White head
  • Black mask
  • White underparts
  • Wings: broad and pointed
  • Black wing tips
  • Blue-grey upperparts
  • Black shoulder patches
  • Tail: Pale bluish-grey
  • Short, square tail
  • Red eyes


  • Dark grey back and shoulders with white feather tips
  • Brownish crown
  • Rufous-tinged breast
  • Yellow eyes
Nominate subspecies : Juvenile
Photo by scottishdude
The Gambia, March 2010

Similar species

None within range. In other parts of the world, other Elanus are similar.


Europe, Africa and southern Asia. In Europe rare and local but increasing.

Europe: breeds only in southern Portugal and central and southern Spain, recently bred for the first time in southwest France in Landes/Pyrenees-Atlantiques and in 1994 a pair held territory in Normandy.

Also breeds in North Africa in parts of Morocco, coastal Algeria and Tunisia, and in the Nile Valley. Increasing in Egypt but in decline in northwest Africa, and now particularly rare in Algeria. South of the Sahara this is a common and widespread species from Senegal to Ethiopia and southern Somalia and south to the Cape including Madagascar.

In Asia breeds in the south-west of the Arabian Peninsula and from Pakistan, through the Indian Subcontinent, southeast Asia and the Philippines south to Sumatra, Borneo, and Sulawesi. Also occurs in central and eastern New Guinea.

Mainly resident over much of range but some undergo erratic movements. Recorded as a vagrant in France in Picardy in the north and the Camargue in the south, Belgium and the Netherlands, Denmark, Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Austria. Also recorded in Italy, Turkey, Cyprus, and the Middle East, presumably from northeast Africa.

Spanish breeding range: Since the spring of 2003, Black-shouldered Kites have been breeding in the Doñana region of south-western Spain. At least 5 pairs bred successfully in the Corredor Verde near Villamanrique de la Condesa in 2006. Other pairs are also known to be breeding locally. Nest building and mating by three pairs has already been observed during December 2006 and by one pair in February 2008 in territories held by resident birds in the Corredor Verde. It is possible that there are now as many as 15 resident pairs throughout the Donana region.

Nominate subspecies
Photo by john-henry
Algarve, Portugal, November 2007


Elanus caeruleus is commonly called Black-shouldered Kite, leading to easy confusion with the Australian species Black-shouldered Kite (aka Australian Kite) Elanus axillaris (which, along with White-tailed Kite Elanus leucurus of the Americas, have been considered subspecies of E. caeruleus).


There are 4 subspecies[1]:

  • E. c. caeruleus:
  • South-western Iberian Peninsula, Africa and south-western Arabia
  • E. c. vociferus:
  • E. c. hypoleucus:
  • E. c. wahgiensis:


Open areas with scattered trees and woodland edges in cultivated areas, savanna and semi-desert.

Photo by the late Laurence Poh
Near Perak, Peninsula Malaysia



Glides on raised wings and has fast owl-like wing beats. Hovers.


The diet includes small mammals, birds and insects.


Nests quite low in trees.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2017. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2017, with updates to August 2017. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Collins Field Guide 5th Edition
  3. Collins Bird Guide ISBN 0 00 219728 6
  4. Wikipedia

Recommended Citation

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