Black kite

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The black kite (Milvus migrans) belongs to the family Accipitridae.

The black kite species is distributed in Europe, Africa, Asia, Indian Subcontinent and Australia.

Taxonomy of Black kite

  • Scientific Name: Milvus migrans
  • Common Name: Black kite
  • French: Milan noir; German: Schwarzmilan; Spanish: Milano negro;
  • Other names: Falco migrans Boddaert, 1783; Milvus affinis; Milvus ater; Milvus melanotis;
  • Family: Accipitridae › Accipitriformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Species author: (Boddaert, 1783)
Milvus migrans was earlier included in genus Falco. The seven recognized subspecies are: M. m. migrans (Boddaert, 1783), M. m. govinda Sykes, 1832, M. m. formosanus Nagamichi Kuroda, 1920, M. m. affinis Gould, 1838, M. m. lineatus (J. E. Gray, 1831), M. m. aegyptius (J. F. Gmelin, 1788) and M. m. parasitus (Daudin, 1800).


The black kite species is a medium sized bird and the females are slightly larger than the males. The male black kite measures 45 to 65 cm in length and weighs 600 to 900 grams. The female bird weighs 750 to 1,100 grams. The wingspan is 120 to 150 cm. The black kite has dark brown plumage. The head and neck are paler. There is a dark patch behind the eyes. The outer flight feathers are black and the feathers have dark cross bars and are mottled at the base. The cere, gape and legs are yellow. The beak and claws are black. These kite species have a distinctive shrill whistling sound followed by a rapid whinnying call.

Indian birds - Image of Black kite - Milvus migrans
Indian birds - Image of Black kite - Milvus migrans


The black kite species inhabits a wide variety of habitats such as semi-deserts, grasslands, savannas and woodlands. They avoid dense forests.

Feeding habits

These kite species feed on birds, bats, rodents, fish, reptiles, carrion and household waste.


The breeding season of these kite species in India is during winter. The nest is a rough platform of twigs and rags placed usually in a fork of tree. Both the male and female take part in nest building, incubation and care of chicks. The clutch usually contains two to three eggs.


The kite subspecies M. m. migrans is distributed in Europe, Africa, Asia and Indian Subcontinent. The subspecies M. m. govinda is distributed in Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South China, Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia. The subspecies M. m. formosanus is distributed in Taiwan and South China. The subspecies M. m. affinis is distributed in Indonesia, New Guinea and Australia. The subspecies M. m. lineatus is distributed in Europe, Asia, Indian Subcontinent, Myanmar and Southeast Asia. The subspecies M. m. aegyptius is distributed in Egypt, Arabia, coastal E Africa and Kenya. The kite subspecies M. m. parasitus is distributed in Africa and Madagascar.

Movement Patterns

The kite populations in the tropical regions are resident. The populations of these kite species from Europe and north Asia leave their breeding grounds between July and October, arriving back between February and May. These kite species winter in sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia.

Status and conservation

The global black kite population is estimated to be 1,000,000 to 6,000,000 individual birds. The modernisation of urban areas had lead to habitat loss. Agricultural pesticides and windmills are the threats to the conservation of these kite species.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated these kite species and has listed them as of "Least Concern".

Biological classification of Milvus migrans
Species:M. migrans
Binomial name:Milvus migrans
Distribution:Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and Indian Subcontinent;
Feeding habits:small mammals, reptiles, birds, fish and carrion;
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern

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