Image: Black-shouldered Kite Illustration
Black-shouldered Kites are pale grey in colour with a white head and black shoulder patch. They have red eyes, sharp hooked beaks and feet with three toes facing forwards and one toe facing backwards.
- Andrew Howells
- © Australian Museum
- Common name:
- Black-shouldered Kite
- Scientific name:
- Elanus axillaris
Black-shouldered Kites are small birds of prey that live in woodlands, grasslands, paddocks and city parks over most of Australia. They are pale grey in colour with a white head and black shoulder patch. They have red eyes, sharp, hooked beaks and feet with three toes facing forwards and one toe facing backwards. Black-shouldered Kites call with a hoarse wheezing sound.
Black-shouldered Kites sit in tall dead trees or fly high above the ground in the early morning and late afternoon looking for mice, lizards, snakes, frogs and insects. When they find a prey item they drop silently onto it and grab it in their sharp talons, killing it quickly. They tear their prey into pieces with their sharp beak and swallow it.
Black-shouldered Kites make nests high up in the trees from a loose cup of sticks and leaves. Females lay three to four white eggs, which have red-brown blotches. The female sits on the eggs for 30 days. When the eggs hatch the chicks are helpless but have soft down covering their body. The female feeds the chicks with food brought back to the nest by the male. When the chicks are older both parents take it in turns to feed them. The chicks have feathers and are ready to fly in five weeks.
When a male kite is courting a female he will sometimes dive at her, locking his talons in hers midair, and then together they will spiral downwards.
Find more information about the Black-shouldered Kite on the Birds in Backyards website.