Black-winged kite

   ›      ›   Black-winged kite - Elanus caeruleus.

The black-winged kite (Elanus caeruleus) belongs to the family Accipitridae.

The black-winged kite species is distributed in Europe, Africa, Asia, Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, Philippines, New Guinea and Indonesia.

Taxonomy of Black-winged kite

  • Scientific Name: Elanus caeruleus
  • Common Name: Black-winged kite
  • French: Élanion blac; German: Gleitaar; Spanish: Elanio común;
  • Other names: Falco caeruleus Desfontaines, 1789; Elanus melanopterus; Black-shouldered Kite; Common Black-shouldered Kite;
  • Family: Accipitridae › Accipitriformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Species author: (Desfontaines, 1789)
Elanus caeruleus is closely related to E. axillaris and E. leucurus. The four recognized subspecies are: E. c. caeruleus (Desfontaines, 1789), E. c. vociferus (Latham, 1790), E. c. hypoleucus Gould, 1859 and E. c. wahgiensis Mayr & Gilliard, 1954.


The black-winged kite is a small bird, the female is slightly larger than the male. The male kite measures, 30 to 35 cm in length and weighs 200 to 270 grams. The female weighs 220 to 340 grams. The wingspan is 75 to 90 cm.

The kite has white, grey and blackish velvety plumage and owl like forward-facing eyes with orange red irises. The wings are long and the bird is predominantly greyish white. There is blackish shoulder patches, wing tips and eye stripe.

Indian birds - Image of Black-winged kite - Elanus caeruleus
Indian birds - Image of Black-winged kite - Elanus caeruleus



The black-winged kite species primarily inhabit open savanna grasslands with scattered bushes and small trees and semi-deserts areas. They have been also seen at higher altitudes in Sikkim, Nilgiris and Nagaland.

Feeding habits

The black-winged kite feeds on small mammals like rodents, shrews, bats and also small birds. These kites also prey upon grasshoppers, crickets and other large insects.


The black-winged kite breeding season is between February to August in the Palearctic region and in Africa and India breeding begins at the end of the wet season. The nest is constructed on the trees with twigs and fine material. The clutch has two to four eggs. Both parents incubate and the male kite has the major role in feeding the incubating female and later the chicks.


The subspecies E. c. caeruleus is distributed in France, Spain, Africa and Arabia. The subspecies E. c. vociferus is distributed in Indian Subcontinent, China, Southeast Asia, Indochina, Iraq, Iran, and Arabian Peninsula. The subspecies E. c. hypoleucus is distributed in Malaysia and Indonesia. The subspecies E. c. wahgiensis is distributed in New Guinea.

Movement Patterns

The black-winged kite is nomadic moving around the range in search of prey.

In some locations these long-winged kites have been observed to move to warmer areas in the winter.

Status and conservation

These long-winged kite species have an extremely large range and considered least vulnerable. The possible threats to its conservation are use of pesticides, habitat degradation human activities in the breeding habitats.

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 Elanus caeruleus
Species:E. caeruleus
Binomial name:Elanus caeruleus
Distribution:Europe, Asia, Africa, Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, Philippines, Indonesia and New Guinea;
Feeding habits:small mammals, reptiles, birds and insects;
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern

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Image Author: J.M.Garg | Image License: cc-by-sa-3.0
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