Black Kite (Milvus migrans)

Black Kite

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Milvus migrans | [authority] Boddaert, 1783 | [UK] Black Kite | [FR] Milan noir | [DE] Schwarzmilan | [ES] Milano Negro | [NL] Zwarte Wouw


Monotypic species


Milvus is a genus of medium-sized birds of prey. It is an Old World group consisting of three kites which form part of the subfamily Milvinae. Its systematics are under revision; it contains 3 or 4 species.

Physical charateristics

Shorter overall than Red Kite, with broader, notched rather than forked tail. Uniformly coloured, loosely built kite. Plumage dusky-brown, with only noticeable features diffuse pale patches at base of primaries and on upper wing-coverts. Juvenile paler, more tawny below than adult, with bases of primaries whitish and undertail more clearly barred.

Listen to the sound of Black Kite

[audio: Kite.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 135 cm wingspan max.: 150 cm
size min.: 55 cm size max.: 60 cm
incubation min.: 26 days incubation max.: 38 days
fledging min.: 42 days fledging max.: 38 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 3  


Eurasia, Africa, Oriental Region, Australasia : widespread


Ubiquitous, occuring from semi-desert, grassland and savanna to woodland, but avoids dense forest
Commonly aquatic habitats, rivers, lakes, wetlands,seashores and nearby in meadows and along margins of wetlands. Often linked with man to greater or lesser degree.


In temperate zones of Eurasia,Mar-Jun, in tropical Africa, normally in dry season, in S Africa, aug-Dec, in Australia, mainly Jul- Nov.
Solitay or loosely colonial, nests in trees, building nest in fork or on branch or on wide side branch, also on cliff ledges, locally along coast. platform of sticks which often includes rags or plastic, paper, dung or skin.
2-3 eggs, incubation 26-38 days, normally by female almost exclusively, if male brings sufficient food, female may not hunt during entire breeding attempt.

Feeding habits

Essentially carrion and small or medium sized mammals and birds, also fish, lizards, amphibians and invertebrates can be important locally or seasonally.
Diet varies according to local availability, with proportionally more prey captured during breeding.
More unusually, vegetable matter, particularly oil palm fruits.
Catches prey on ground or water, large insects caught in air, and then eaten on wing. Often forages around margins of waterbodies, and by refuse dumps, slaughterouses or roads, where looks for animals knocked down by traffic.

Video Black Kite


copyright: youtube


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
This kite inhabits most of Africa and Eurasia, from the Iberian Peninsula to Japan. Northwards it occurs up to 65 degrees N. European populations are wintering in sub-Saharan Africa. About 21000-28000 breeding pairs occur in the European Union, which represents roughly 25% of the total European population. This species is subject to important fluctuations, but globally it undergoes a slow decrease since the beginning of the century. Being largely a scavenger, it is very susceptible to poisoning and pollution by pesticides. The disappearance of extensive pastoralism is another negative factor
Black Kite status Least Concern


Mainly migratory in west Palearctic, though some southern Eurasian populations largely resident. Exceptional in central Europe in winter. Principal winter quarters south of Sahara: from Senegal east to Sudan and south to South Africa.
European birds show major south-west movement in autumn, towards important Mediterranean crossing point at Straits of Gibraltar; some south, and others south-east towards Bosporus. Many pass around eastern end of Black Sea. Occurs in Israel both passages, and abundant at Eilat in south in spring. In north-east Africa, common both passages through Eritrea. In central Europe, juvenile dispersal begins late June to early July. Major exodus of all age groups in August though some remain into September or even later. First European breeding birds reach North Africa in July and northern tropics in August. Return movement begins February in Africa; initial arrivals Switzerland late February or early March, and Germany in second half March, but major arrivals central Europe in first half April with immigration continuing to early or mid-May.

Distribution map

Black Kite distribution range map

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