how big is a kite bird

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how big is a kite bird

  • Scientific Name: Elanoides forficatus
  • Population: 4,500 (U.S.); 150,000 (World)
  • Trend: Increasing
  • Habitat: In U. S. breeds in swamp, riparian, and bottomland forests; it spends the winter in humid lowland forests. Elsewhere, associated with tall, humid forests.

how big is a kite bird

With its distinctive black-and-white plumage, long, pointed wings, and deeply forked tail, the Swallow-tailed Kite is easily identifiable when in flight. This largest American kite soars gracefully and buoyantly, so light and agile that it can catch a dragonfly midair or remove a lizard from its treetop hiding place without ever beating a beat on its wings.

It frequently turns its tail while in flight, sometimes to almost 90 degrees, and uses it as a rudder to stay on course, make sudden turns, or circle.

The Swallow-tailed Kite is exceptionally gregarious for a raptor, much like the Harriss Hawk. When it’s not breeding season, hundreds of kites may congregate at communal night and pre-migration roosts. Pairs typically nest close to one another. These birds migrate in flocks as well, sometimes reaching thousands in number.

The Swallow-tailed Kite is a bird that is easy to spot overhead in areas where it nests. Its distinctive appearance and flight pattern have earned it several names, such as “Forked-tailed Kite” or “Swallow Hawk.” The English naturalist and illustrator Mark Catesby first gave it the name Accipiter cauda furcata (forked-tail hawk) in the 18th century. Other monikers, like “Wasp Hawk” or “Snake Hawk,” refer to the bird’s diet of tiny reptiles and insects.

Two Swallow-tailed Kite subspecies are recognized. Breeding in coastal South Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, and eastern Texas is where the American population nests. These U. S. birds winter in South America. Most of the Swallow-tailed Kites worldwide belong to the other subspecies, which are found in Central and South America.

With a wingspan of more than four feet, the Swallow-tailed Kite is nearly two feet long from its bill to the tips of its forked tail. It is easily recognized by its distinctive tail, black wings, and white body. This bird is rarely heard and is typically observed in flight, frequently high above the trees. One of its calls is a high-pitched, whistled klee-klee-klee.

(Audio: Swallow-tailed Kite flight call by Dusan M. Brinkhuizen, XC93821. Accessible at

The main food source for swallow-tailed kites is flying insects, like cicadas and dragonflies, which they catch and eat while in flight. However, these raptors don’t just eat invertebrates: they also catch snakes, lizards, treefrogs, and even tiny bird nestlings and eggs as they soar through the treetops. Swallow-tailed Kites in South Florida occasionally nest in suburban areas, and one of their favorite foods is the introduced and thriving Green Iguana hatchlings. Swallow-tailed Kites eat fruit, which is unusual for raptors, especially in their wintering grounds. Like swallows, they even drink while flying, skimming the water’s surface to gather water.

Swallow-tailed Kites dive, chase, and vocalize a great deal during courtship. When they’re ready to nest, they construct a shallow twig cup that is bordered with soft vegetation, such as Spanish moss. Nests are constructed by pairs high in the crowns of large trees like cottonwood, bald cypress, and pine. Nesting success requires nearby open areas where the birds find prey in addition to tall trees.

Young Swallow-tailed Kites spend up to six weeks in the nest from hatching to fledging. Not all reach maturity, however. Similar to other species like the Great Horned Owl and Great Egret, the first kite chick occasionally murders its smaller, younger sibling. This apparently cruel phenomenon, called “obligate siblicide,” is a reflection of the breeding conditions of a given year; if there is enough food, more chicks survive.

how big is a kite bird

In the past, the Swallow-tailed Kite could be found all the way up to Minnesota along the Mississippi River. A significant toll was caused by decades of extensive shooting and forest clearance. Currently, the species only breeds in seven Southeast states, down from at least 21 in the past. Today, habitat loss remains the main threat to this species. In its U. S. range, unsustainable logging and development have resulted in the loss of substantial tracts of humid bottomland forest. Although the U. S. Reforestation in riparian areas appears to be increasing population, but this trend may not last long because development is posing new threats to these habitats.

ABC developed a 50-50-5 Action Plan to stop the decline in bird populations. This plan identifies 50 flagship bird species, 50 priority ecosystems, and five major threats, among them the Swallow-tailed Kite.

Due to the concerted efforts of numerous state, federal, and nongovernmental partners, the Swallow-tailed Kite is once again becoming common in some areas of the southern United States. After 25 years of research, the Avian Research and Conservation Institute (ARCI) has created science-based management recommendations for swallow-tailed kites. Before the birds migrate south to Brazil and Bolivia for the winter, ARCI keeps track of populations at large, pre-migration roosts in Florida that number in the thousands. The organization also maintains a database of sightings of kites. To help direct forest management that benefits landowners while preserving habitat for the Swallow-tailed Kite and other vulnerable species, ABC collaborates with ARCI and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).

The SFI is developing pilot projects that are intended to better understand, preserve, and possibly create the ideal habitat conditions for priority birds like the Swallow-tailed Kite. Furthermore, International Paper, ARCI, and ABC have worked together to develop management guidelines for the kite that assist foresters in the Southeast in integrating the conservation of the species into their forest management practices.

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  • Population: 500,000 – 5 million
  • Trend: Probably declining based on habitat loss
  • Population: Unknown
  • Trend: Probably declining based on habitat loss

how big is a kite bird

Description edit

Male red kites weigh 800–1,200 g (28–42 oz), while females weigh 1,000–1,300 g (35–46 oz). Red kites are 60–70 cm (24–28 in) long[14] and have a wingspan of 175–179 cm (69–70 in). [3] It is a graceful bird that soars on long, dihedral wings and a long, forked tail that twists as it changes course. The body, upper tail and wing coverts are rufous. The dark secondaries and black wing tips contrast with the white primary flight feathers. The sexes are similar except for the difference in weight; juveniles have a larger breast and belly. It makes a thin, piping sound when calling, not as mewling as a common buzzard. A rare white leucistic form makes up about 1% of the hatchlings in the Welsh population, but this variation puts the population at a disadvantage when it comes to survival. [15].


How big are kite birds?

Red kites are 60 to 70 cm (24 to 28 in) long with a 175–179 cm (69–70 in) wingspan; males weigh 800–1,200 g (28–42 oz), and females 1,000–1,300 g (35–46 oz). It is an elegant bird, soaring on long wings held at a dihedral, and long forked tail, twisting as it changes direction.

Which is bigger buzzard or kite?

Red kites and common buzzards are two of England’s largest and most beautiful birds of prey. With the wing spans of buzzards being up to 54inches and red kites up to 70inches!

How big are kites usually?

Red Kites can weigh between 800 and 1.3kg and are between 24 – 26 inches long with a wingspan of approximately 5 feet. In terms of it’s colouring the Red Kite has a russet body with a grey and white head, it’s wings are red with white patches on the underneath and its tail is grey, white tipped with black.

Would a kite take a small dog?

RSPB spokesman Tom Waters said it would be “most unusual” for a red kite to attack a dog, no matter how tiny the pet was. But he added “They are opportunistic and can take small mammals.”