Black Kite

Did you know?

The Black Kite is the most abundant raptor (bird of prey) in the world.

The call is a descending whistle "psee-err" followed by a staccato "si-si-si-si-si".
Facts and Figures
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Breeding season: 
Usually August and November; can breed at any time
Clutch Size: 
One to three.
28 days
Nestling Period: 
40 days
Conservation Status
Basic Information
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What does it look like?

The Black Kite is a medium-sized raptor (bird of prey). From a distance, it appears almost black, with a light brown bar on the shoulder. The plumage is actually dark brown, with scattered light brown and rufous markings, particularly on the head, neck and underparts. The tail is forked and barred with darker brown. This feature gives the bird its alternative name of Fork-tailed Kite. The eye is dark brown and the bill is black with a yellow cere (area of skin around the nostrils). Both sexes are similar. Young Black Kites are generally lighter in colour than the adults, and have a comparatively shallower forked tail.

Similar species: 

The Black Kite's plumage is similar to other raptors (birds of prey), such as the Little EagleHieraaetus morphnoidesWhistling Kite,Haliastur sphenurus, and Square-tailed Kite, Lophoictinia isura. In flight, however, its long forked tail and almost unmarked underwing make it unmistakable.

Where does it live?

The Black Kite's range covers the majority of the Australian mainland, as well as Africa, Asia and Europe. The Black Kite is arguably the most numerous species of raptor in the world.


The Black Kite is found in a variety of habitats, from timbered watercourses to open plains, and is often observed in and around outback towns. Although it is more normally seen in small groups, the Black Kite may form huge flocks of many thousands of birds, especially during grasshopper plagues. No other Australian bird of prey is seen in such large flocks.

What does it do?

The Black Kite preys on lizards, small mammals and insects, especially grasshoppers. It also is a scavenger, and frequents tips in outback towns. Black Kites also gather in flocks around bush fires, and eagerly pounce on small animals as these flee the flames. Both live and dead (carrion) prey is eaten.


Black Kites nest in isolated pairs or in small, scattered colonies. As with other raptors, a ritualised aerial courtship display is performed by both sexes. This involves loud calling, grappling of feet (talons), and tumbling or cartwheeling. The nest is a bulky cup of sticks, lined with softer material, and is placed in the fork of a tree branch (generally close to the trunk). The female incubates the eggs while the male provides food.

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