Black Shouldered Kite

Back in March I was walking in one of the southern paddocks, and spied a bird sitting atop a dead tree, where it had a good view of the surrounding land.  It was difficult to get to the right angle for a closer look at it, and also it was at the far range for my camera, but of course, I had to try 🙂

MagnificenceI continued with my walk without disturbing the bird, and later on when I was returning, I found I was still in luck, and could grab a couple more shots.


Black-shouldered Kite

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Black-shouldered Kite
At Royal Botanic Gardens, Cranbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Accipitriformes
Family: Accipitridae
Genus: Elanus
Species: E. axillaris
Binomial name
Elanus axillaris
(Latham, 1802)

The Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus axillaris) or Australian Black-shouldered Kite is a small raptor found in open habitat throughout Australia and resembles similar species found in Africa, Eurasia and North America, which have in the past also been named as Black-shouldered Kites. Measuring 35–38 cm (13.8–15 in) in length with a wingspan of 80–95 cm (31.5–37.4 in), the adult Black-shouldered Kite is a small and graceful, predominantly pale grey and white, raptor with black shoulders and red eyes. Their primary call is a clear whistle, uttered in flight and while hovering.

Though reported across Australia, they are most common in the south-east and south-west corners of the mainland. Their preferred habitat is open grasslands with scattered trees and they are often seen hunting along roadsides. Like all the elanid kites, it is a specialist predator of rodents, which it hunts singly or in pairs by hovering in mid-air above open land.

Black-shouldered Kites form monogamous pairs, breeding between August and January. The birds engage in aerial courtship displays which involve high circling flight and ritualised feeding mid-air. Three or four eggs are laid and incubated for around thirty days. Chicks are fully fledged within five weeks of hatching and can hunt for mice within a week of leaving the nest. Juveniles disperse widely from the home territory.

Black shouldered kiteI often see the kites out hunting, but sadly I’m never in the right place to get a good shot of them hovering.  One day….

For some great images of these wonderful hunters, have a look at this site – there are some beauties!  There are also many other Australian birds covered by Michael Dahlem on his very informative page.


6 thoughts on “Black Shouldered Kite

  1. From its hovering behavior while hunting to its call, it’s very similar to our osprey. The osprey is a fish-eater, of course. No mousies for him! Even the perching behavior is similar. The ospreys often will perch atop masts in the marinas – usually one of a pair, while the other is hunting over the lake. It’s such fun to hear them call to one another.

    Wonderful photos and information!

  2. Lucky, lucky you, Enivea. I was out walking this afternoon and had the opportunity to admire the hovering skills of a black shouldered kite near Forest Creek. I am impressed by the way the kites can hold their bodies steady whilst hovering and move their heads about to check out what what else may be nearby when they get bored with gazing at the ground immediately below.

    I think they are very handsome with their white, grey and black plumage.

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