© Copyright: Images: Jari Peltomäki. Recording: Jan-Erik Bruun. All rights reserved.

Black Kite

Milvus migrans

  • Family: Hawks – Accipitridae
  • Appearance: A medium-sized evenly dark brown hawk with large, long wings and a fork-tipped tail (not visible when tail fanned).
  • Size: Length 48–58 cm (19–23 in), wingspan 130–155 cm (51–60 in), weight 560–940 g (22–38 oz).
  • Nest: Made of sticks and twigs, lined with moss. In Finland mainly nests in pine or spruce trees. Reputed to bring litter such as tins and cigarette packets to nest.
  • Breeding: 1–3 eggs laid May-June, incubated by both parents for 32 days. Young birds able to fly within 44–45 days.
  • Distribution: Near shores, where often feeds. Also scavenges from gardens, rubbish tips and dumps. A relative newcomer in Finland, where it has become more common since the 1930s. Population presently 15–20 pairs. Occurs most commonly in Eastern Finland (Kymi Valley – North Karelia).
  • Migration: Winters in tropical Africa and the Middle East, migrating south Aug–Oct and returning from mid April.
  • Diet: Fish taken from the water surface, dead or alive. Will also scavenge on carrion and among rubbish.
  • Calls: A harsh screech, reminiscent of a young Herring Gull.
  • Endangerment: Critically endangered in Finland. Globally Least concern.

Black Kites are dark brown birds of prey, comparable in size to Honey Buzzards. They look gangly in flight with their long wings and long, slightly forked tail (fork not visible if tail fanned out). They have a pale patch beneath each wingtip, and a yellowish stripe on the upper sides of their wing coverts. Black Kites often soar, gliding slightly downwards with arched wings, constantly twisting their tails sideways. Juveniles have uniformly pale and spotted plumage and pale yellow legs. Adults’ legs are reddish yellow. Their beaks are black with reddish yellow ceres, and their irises are greyish brown.

Black Kites are sociable, and can be found in large numbers in many parts of their range.

Other species from the same family

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