Hook-billed Kite

Hook Billed Kite
Credit: thibaudaronson

Hook-billed Kites are distinctive birds of prey because of their parrot-like, hooked bills. Males are generally gray all over, particularly on their heads, backs, and wings. 

Their eyes are white with a pale green eyering and they have an orange patch above their green lores (the bare skin in front of their eyes). Their breasts are gray too but have varying degrees of white barring. Their tails are black with two broad white bands. 

Females share similar head characteristics as males. However, they are mostly brown on their upperparts but rufous (reddish) with white barring on their breasts. They also have an orange-brown collar. Their tails are also rufous with two dark-brown bands. 

Juveniles are dark brown above, and white with blackish barring on the underparts. Their tails show three to four bars instead of two. 

The Hooked-bill Kites have a dark morph that is black with a broad white tail band.

There is also another subspecies, C.u. mirus, found in Grenada. It has a smaller bill and greenish eyes. Females have rufous-brown coloring, with white barring on their breasts. It has no dark morph.

  • Chondrohierax uncinatus
  • Length:  16 – 18 in (41 – 46 cm)
  • Weight: 9.8 oz (278 g)
  • Wingspan: 34 – 38 in (86 – 97 cm)


Hooked-bill Kites are resident all year in Central and South America down to southern Brazil and they have also wandered into the southern United States.

Habitat And Diet

You can find Hooked-bill Kites in lowland rainforests, second-growth and disturbed forests, forest edges, and clearings.  They also frequent wooded streams and dry coastal forests. They may go where their favorite tree snails are, moving from one location to another depending on the abundance of their food.

Hooked-bill Kites favorite food are tree snails. They jump from tree limb to tree limb in search of them. Once they find one, they snatch it from the tree with their bill, insert their hooked bill into the shell, and then crack it open.

They will do almost anything to get that snail, even catching it in flight or hanging upside down from branches to reach it. Aside from tree snails, they also eat, insects, crabs, frogs, and salamanders. 

Hooked-bill Kite Call:


Nests of Hooked-bill Kites are usually small and messy nests made of sticks and twigs. Hooked-bill Kites set them on branches of trees about five meters to twenty-five meters above the ground. 

The female lays one to three eggs and incubation is done within thirty-five days mostly by the female while the male supports her with food. Both parents care for their young for as long as forty days until they’re ready to fly. 

Fun Fact:

Hooked-bill Kites have varying sizes of bills. Their bills are indicative of the size of the tree snails that they consume. Small bills eat small snails and vice versa.