Scissor-tailed Kite

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Image:ScissortailedKite.jpg

Common Name: Scissor-tailed Kite
Scientific Name: Chelictinia riocourii

Size: 13-15 inches (33-38 cm); Wingspan: 26.7-30 inches (68-76 cm)

Habitat: Africa; it is distributed across the breadth of the Afrotropics, but in a narrow band largely confined to 15°N to 8°N.This area includes Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Togo, and Uganda. It is also found in Yemen.

It breeds within the Sahel zone and there is a small resident population in northern Kenya and Uganda. It is migratory, moving south (albeit remaining in the northern hemisphere) in November after breeding, coinciding with the start of the dry season. It returns north when the rains begin in February and the overall extent of migration fluctuates annually.

It occupies arid savanna and semi-desert habitats from sea level up to 500m.

Status: Least Concern. Global population: 670-6,700 adult individuals with a decreasing population trend. The species has declined over West Africa since the 1970s as a result of locust control, and it is vulnerable to pesticides. Given its reliance on the Sahel zone it is likely to be vulnerable to the on-going deterioration of this environment.

Diet: Mostly reptiles such as lizards and snakes, insects and spiders, and occasionally small rodents. It is gregarious and will gather in groups at the edge of grass fires to capture grasshopper and crickets (Orthoptera) or near cattle herds to capture insects.

It hunts on the wing, by soaring and hovering before descending to hawk the flying prey or catch it on the ground.

Nesting: Adults have gray crowns and backs . The underside is uniformly white. There is a distinct black oblong shape on each of the under wings and a vertical black bar that extends from neck to rump on the wing tops. The iris is deep red with a black eye ring. The bill is black with a pale yellow/gray cere and the feet are yellow/orange.

The species constructs small stick nests (30-40cm diameter) in thorn trees often near to the nests of larger raptors such as Secretarybird and Snake-eagle, and sometimes, close to human settlement. Breeding occurs in May to September in the majority of its range, but in Senegal it occurs from December to February and in Kenya from March to June or from August onwards.

Cool Facts: This is a gregarious species, sleeping at communal roost at night and hunting in loose flocks. It may also nest in loose colonies.


Found in Songbird ReMix Birds of Prey Volume 5: Falcons, Hawks & Eagles

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