Red kite

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The red kite (Milvus milvus) belongs to the family Accipitridae. The red kite species is distributed in Europe, Africa and Asia. It is a rare visitor to Indian Subcontinent.

Taxonomy of Red kite

  • Scientific Name: Milvus milvus
  • Common Name: Red kite
  • French: Milan royal; German: Rotmilan; Spanish: Milano real;
  • Other names: Cape Verde kite; Falco Milvus Linnaeus, 1758;
  • Family: Accipitridae › Accipitriformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Species author: (Linnaeus, 1758)
Milvus milvus was earlier included in genus Falco. The two recognized subspecies are: M. m. milvus (Linnaeus, 1758) and M. m. fasciicauda E. J. O. Hartert, 1914.

Indian birds - Image of Red kite - Milvus milvus
Indian birds - Image of Red kite - Milvus milvus


The red kite is a large bird, measuring 60 to 65 cm in length. Male red kite weighs 750 to 1,200 grams and the female kite weighs 1,00 to 1,300 grams. The wingspan is 175 to 195 cm. It has deep rufous plumage with black breast-streaks. The tail is deeply forked and reddish on top. It has pale fringes to upper wing secondary-coverts only. Its call is a thin piping sound.


These kite species breed in broadleaf woodlands and forests, mixed with farmland, pasture and heathland. Wintering kites occupy open wooded land, wasteland, scrub and wetlands.

Feeding habits

The red kite feeds on carrion, small to medium-sized mammals such as such as mice, voles, shrews, young hares and rabbits. It also feeds on birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates.


The nest is built on the fork of tree and is made of twigs and lined with grass or other vegetation and sheep’s wool. The breeding season of these kite species is between March and May.


The kite subspecies M. m. milvus is distributed in Spain, Portugal, Ukraine, Russia, Britain, France, Germany, Sweden, Latvia, Italy, Turkey and North Africa. The subspecies M. m. fasciicauda was distributed in Cape Verde Islands and presently it is considered extinct.

Movement Patterns

Most of the north-east European population is migratory, moving to wintering grounds in France, Iberia and Africa between August and November, returning between February and April. The populations in other places are sedentary.

Status and conservation

The global population is estimated to be 40,000 to 50,000 individual birds. Being scavengers, illegal poison baits set for foxes or crows had caused huge decrease in population. Other threats to the conservation of these kites species are the loss of breeding habitat due to felling of trees and increased human activity in the breeding grounds.

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

Biological classification of Milvus milvus
Species:M. milvus
Binomial name:Milvus milvus
Distribution:Europe, Asia, Africa and a rare visitor to Indian Subcontinent;
Feeding habits:small mammals, reptiles, birds and carrion;
IUCN status listing:
Near Threatened

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