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White-tailed Kite Elanus leucurus


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White-tailed Kite
credit: Kevin Cole/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Alternate name: Black-shouldered Kite

Family: Accipitridae, Hawks and Eagles view all from this family

Description ADULT Has mainly pale gray back and upper wings, except for black "shoulders" (inner upper wing coverts). Head is paler whitish, but note the large, red eye with black surrounding patch. Tail is pure white when seen from below, but gray-centered seen from above. Underparts are mainly white, but seen from below in flight, note the dark wingtips and carpal patch. Legs and feet are yellow. JUVENILE Similar to adult, but breast, nape, and crown are flushed and streaked orange-buff, and back feathers have pale margins.

Dimensions Length: 15-16" (38-41 cm); Wngspn: 3' 4" (1 m)

Habitat Local resident of grassland habitats with scattered trees; seldom numerous.

Observation Tips Often active at dawn and dusk when white plumage shows up particularly well.

Range Northwest, Southeast, Southwest, California, Texas, Florida

Voice Utters whistling calls.

Discussion Attractive and distinctive raptor that is larger and much paler than Mississippi Kite. In flight, often looks all-white, but close view reveals distinctive pattern of gray and black on upperparts. Frequently hovers, while searching for prey, but also glides with wings held in a "V"; also perches on roadside posts. Sexes are similar.