Black Kite

Black kite (Milvus migrans)

The Black Kite is a medium- to large-sized, widely distributed bird of prey.

Black Kites are generally dark brown in coloring. Their heads and necks are a bit on the lighter side, with some having grayish-brown streaks. They have a dark patch behind the eye, a yellow cere (skin connecting the bill to the forehead), and a black bill (which differentiates them from the yellow-billed kite).

Their underparts are dark-brown, sometimes with some rufous (red) mixed in. Their outer wings are black with a large pale patch at their base. Their tails are short, forked, and with darker-brown barring. Their legs are yellow and their talons are black.

  • Milvus migrans
  • Length: 17 – 25 in (43 – 64 cm)
  • Weight: 22 – 38 oz (623 – 1077 g)
  • Wingspan: 47 – 60 in (119 – 152 cm)


Black Kites currently have 5 subspecies – European Black Kite, Black-eared Kite, Small Indian Kite, Fork-Tailed Kite, and the Taiwan Kite. European and Central Asian birds are migratory while Indian and Australasian birds are resident.

Its current population stands at 6 Million, spanning four continents – Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa. It has been seen in Alaska, which makes it a vagrant to North America.

Habitat And Diet

You can find Black Kites in many different types of habitats considering how widespread they are in the world. They favor wetlands, river edges, coasts, grassland, open plains, shrubland, and woodlands. You may be surprised to find them in cities, like the subspecies in India that are adapted to urban living. However, you won’t find them in dense forests and high mountains.

Black Kites are birds of prey so they are carnivores that hunt fish, small mammals, birds, bats, and rodents. Surprisingly, they form large flocks in winter as they hunt for food, which is rare in birds of prey. They are also carrion (dead animals) eaters and they also scavenge around garbage.

Black Kite Call:


Nests of Black Kites are sturdy constructions made of sticks and twigs located on tree branches, cliff ledges, or buildings. Black Kites re-use these nests so they tend to add to the material and repair them over time.

The female lays two or three eggs. Both parents take turns in incubating the eggs, which may take as long as thirty-four days. The young stay in their nests for the next fifty days, until they learn to fly.

Fun Facts:

Black Kites are known to flock around bush fires (in Australia), waiting to ambush the animals that are fleeing from the fires.