Double-toothed Kite (Harpagus bidentatus)

Double-toothed Kite

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Harpagus bidentatus | [authority] Latham, 1790 | [UK] Double-toothed Kite | [FR] Milan bidente | [DE] Doppelzahn-Weih | [ES] Milano Bidentado | [NL] Tandwouw


Monotypic species


Members of the genus Harpagus are small kites with rather short and rounded wings. The size difference between the sexes is more noticeable than with most kites. The bill is small but stout; the edges of the upper mandible have two tooth-like projections, used to dismember insects and reptiles. The talons are strongly curved and very sharp. The genus comprises of two species; both of which live in the tropical forests of Central and South America.

Physical charateristics

The adult male is deep blackish grey around the crown and the sides of his head; his mantle slightly paler grey. The tail is black, with a greyish tip and three narrow white and grey bars. The secondary flight feathers have some white bars but these are often hidden from view. The primary flight feathers are conspicuously barred with white below; less obviously so above. The throat is white with a central black stripe. The grey of the cheeks extends across below the white throat. The centre of the breast, belly, sides and thighs are barred with grey and white and washed with rufous; the sides of the breast are almost solid rufous. Markings are variable as to the extent of barring and amount of rufous. The under-wing coverts are a cream colour. The eyes vary from pale orange to orange red; the cere and lores are greenish-yellow; the bill black, greyish at base, and the legs bright yellow.
The female is much more rufous below; the barring often dark chestnut with only a trace of grey.

Listen to the sound of Double-toothed Kite

[audio: Kite.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: cm wingspan max.: cm
size min.: 33 cm size max.: 38 cm
incubation min.: 41 days incubation max.: 45 days
fledging min.: 28 days fledging max.: 45 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 3  


Latin America : East Mexico to Southeast Brazil


This species prefers rain forest, forest edge, clearings and second growth in tropical and sub tropical zones ip to 300 meters. Soars over the trees, but hunts just under the canopy.


Females conduct most of the nest-building, although males participated on several occasions. Males regularly bring prey (lizards) to females in the nest vicinity during early to midmorning. Arriving with prey in their talons,
males typically land in a tree lo-20 m from the nest, emitting a series of single-note chirping calls. Usually voicing a two-note Cheee-weet vocalization, the female would flies to the perched male, where the prey exchange would take place. This can be followed by copulation. Nesting coicides in most caseswih the onset of the rainy season, probably because of the high abaundance of insects during this period.

Double-toothed Kites frequently soar high over the forest in pairs. The aerial display has been described as similar to that of an Accipiter; males made repeated short swoops or stoops (from up to 300m) which were interrupted periodically by rapid flapping to regain altitude. Eggs are incubated by the female only. Males are rarely seen in the nest vicinity during the incubation period except during infrequent prey deliveries, which are generally lizards. During the nestling phase the female is the main feeder of the cups and also hunts for food, insects and lizards which are fed in small pieces.

Feeding habits

This forest resident of Trinidad perches just below the treetops scanning for its principal food source, lizards. It will also eat bats, insects (cicadas, grasshoppers and crickets), butterflies and bird nestlings. In hunting its prey this Kite sometimes flies straight from the perch at the prey, other times it swoops at steep angles downward from a perch to snatch prey from the air or vegetation with a quick turn and occasionally drops straight down to the surface of a lower tree crown to snatch the prey. In addition to these hunting techniques the Double-toothed Kite also (1) pursues lizards along branches by hopping with outstretched wings, (2) takes bats on the wing near a presumed roost site, and (3) follows troops of capuchin, squirrel, and tamarin monkeys, opportunistically capturing prey flushed by the primates. When following monkeys it comes to lower levels in the trees and sits behind and below the monkeys.

Video Double-toothed Kite


copyright: D. Jackson


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 very 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.
The Double-toothed Kite is a resident of the fringes or interior of tropical lowland rain-forest from southern Mexico to central eastern Bolivia and to Minas Geraes and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. It is also present in similar habitat in Trinidad.
Double-toothed Kite status Least Concern


Probably sedentary in all of its range, with some juvenile post breeding dispersal

Distribution map

Double-toothed Kite distribution range map


Abstract: We studied Double-toothed Kites (Harpagus bidentat..[more]..
Source: The Condor 102:113-126

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