Black-winged Kite (Elanus caeruleus)
The Black-winged Kite (Elanus caeruleus), also known as the Black-shouldered Kite, is a small bird of prey belonging to the family Accipitridae. It has a wide distribution across the Old World, inhabiting regions in sub-Saharan Africa, southern Europe, the Indian subcontinent, and Southeast Asia. The Black-winged Kite can be found in a variety of open habitats, such as grasslands, savannas, agricultural fields, and wetlands, where it has access to perches and open spaces for hunting.
The Black-winged Kite measures around 30-36 centimeters (12-14 inches) in length, with a wingspan of approximately 80-95 centimeters (31-37 inches). It has a slim, compact body, with a predominantly white head and underparts, and black patches on the shoulders, wings, and wingtips. The bird’s eyes are red, and its bill, legs, and feet are yellow. Both males and females share similar coloration and markings, with little sexual dimorphism.
The Black-winged Kite primarily feeds on small mammals, such as rodents, as well as birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. It hunts by hovering in mid-air, scanning the ground for prey, and then diving swiftly to capture its target. The bird may also hunt from a perch or on the wing, using its keen eyesight to detect and capture prey.
Reproduction and Lifecycle:
The breeding season for the Black-winged Kite varies depending on the location, usually occurring between February and October. These birds are monogamous and form long-lasting pair bonds. They build a small, shallow nest made of twigs and other plant materials, usually placed in a tree or bush.
The female lays 3 to 5 white or pale blue eggs with reddish-brown markings, which are incubated by both parents for around 30-32 days. After hatching, the chicks are fed and cared for by both parents until they fledge, or leave the nest, at about 35-40 days old. The young birds continue to receive care from their parents for a few more weeks before becoming fully independent.
The Black-winged Kite is currently listed as “Least Concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to its wide distribution and stable population. The species is not facing any major threats at present. However, habitat loss due to agricultural expansion, urbanization, and deforestation, as well as the use of pesticides and rodenticides, could pose potential risks to the Black-winged Kite population in the future. Conservation efforts focus on habitat preservation and monitoring populations to ensure their long-term survival.