Black Kite

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Image:BlackKite.jpg

Common Name: Black Kite
Scientific Name: Milvus migrans

Size: 8.7-12.2 inches (22-31 cm); Wingspan: 20.1-24 inches (51-61 cm)

Habitat: Eurasia, Africa and Australia. The tropical populations of this kite are resident. The temperate populations, found in Europe and central Asia, tend to be migratory, moving to the tropics in winter. When migrating, kites have a greater propensity to form large flocks than other migratory raptors, particularly prior to making a crossing across water. In winter, they also form large communal roosts, where the flock may fly about before settling.

It is found throughout all habitats, although it tends to avoid dense woodlands.

Status: Least Concern. Global population: 6,000,000 adult individuals. Despite being possibly the most common raptor in the world, the population has declined owing to poisoning, shooting, pollution of water and over-use of pesticides. Modernization of urban environments and agricultural improvements are also thought to be causing declines locally. However, in Europe, trends since 1982 show that populations have undergone a moderate increase

Diet: An extremely versatile feeder, it takes carrion as well as live birds, mammals, fish, lizards, amphibians and invertebrates. It is even known to forage on vegetable matter such as palm oil fruits and human refuse has become a plentiful food source in many areas.

They spend a lot of time soaring and gliding in thermals in search of food.

Nesting: Females are noticeably larger than males. The sexes are alike. The upper plumage is brown but the head and neck tend to be paler. The patch behind the eye appears darker. The outer flight feathers are black and the feathers have dark cross bars and are mottled at the base. The lower parts of the body are pale brown, becoming lighter towards the chin. The body feathers have dark shafts giving it a streaked appearance. The cere and gape are yellow, but the bill is black. The legs are yellow and the claws are black.

The breeding season of black kites in India begins in winter, the young birds fledging before the monsoons. The nest is a rough platform of twigs and rags placed in a tree. Nest sites may be reused in subsequent years. European birds breed in summer. Birds in the Italian Alps tended to build their nest close to water in steep cliffs or tall trees. Nest orientation may be related to wind and rainfall.

After pairing, the male frequently copulates with the female. The reason for this is that unguarded females may be approached by other males and raped. When the paired male returns from a foraging trip, he will copulate with his mate again, thus increasing the chances of his sperm fertilizing the eggs rather than those of a different male. Both the male and female take part in nest building, incubation and the care of chicks. The typical clutch size is 2 - 3 eggs. The incubation period varies from 30–34 days.

Siblings show aggression to each other and often the weaker chick may be killed. In scientific studies parent birds were found to preferentially feed the smaller chicks. The parents guard their nest, diving aggressively at intruders. Humans, who intrude on the nest, appear to be recognized by birds and singled out for dive attacks.

Cool Facts: The red kite has been known to hybridize with the black kite in captivity where both species were kept together, and in the wild on the Cape Verde Islands.

Black Kite nests may sometimes be decorated with bright materials such as white plastic and a study in Spain suggests that they may have a role in signaling to keep away other kites.

There are several subspecies of black kite:

  • Milvus migrans migrans, first described by Boddaert in 1783. The "European Black Kite" breeds in Central, Southern and Eastern Europe, as well as the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa, to Tien Shan and south to northwest Pakistan. It winters in Sub-Saharan Africa. The head is whitish in color.
  • Milvus migrans lineatus, first described by J. E. Gray in 1831. The "Black-eared Kite" is found in Siberia to Amurland, the Southern Himalayas to Northern India, Northern Indochina, Southern China and Japan. Northern inland birds migrate to the Eastern Persian Gulf coast and Southern Asia in winter. It has a larger pale carpal patch.
  • Milvus migrans govinda, first described by Sykes in 1832. The "Small Indian Kite" is a resident in Eastern Pakistan, east through tropical India and Sri Lanka to Indochina and Malay Peninsula. In urban areas it can be seen circling and soaring. It is easily distinguished by its shallow forked tail.
  • Milvus migrans affinis, first described by Gould in 1838. The “Fork-tailed Kite” is found in Sulawesi, the Lesser Sunda Islands, Papua New Guinea (except mountainous areas) and in Northeast and Eastern Australia.
  • Milvus migrans formosanus, first described by Kuroda in 1920. The “Taiwan Kite” is found in Taiwan and Hainan, where it is a resident.



This 3D Model is found in Songbird ReMix Birds of Prey Volume II: Hawks of the Old World

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