Slender-billed Kite (Helicolestes hamatus)

Slender-billed Kite

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Helicolestes hamatus | [authority] Temminck, 1821 | [UK] Slender-billed Kite | [FR] Milan a long bec | [DE] Hakenweih | [ES] Caracolero Plomizo | [NL] Slanksnavelwouw


Monotypic species


Members of the restored genus Helicolestes have more Buteo like traits than the superfically ver y similar Rostrhamus genus (Snail Kite). The latter is clearly more harrier like in behavior. They differ in flight pattern, display activity and voice. Although both species eat large freshwater snails, their hunting methods are different, as would be expected from their morphology. Rostrhamus quarters like a harrier, catching snails in flight, whereas Helicolestes sits motionless and pounces on snails from low branches. The Snail Kite often travels, feeds and roosts in groups, sometimes as large as 1,000 individuals, and it regularly nests in scattered colonies of up to 100 pairs; the Slender-billed Kite is essentially solitary or pair-living, especially when nesting

Physical charateristics

The Slender-billed Kite (Rostrhamus hamatus) has a slate-grey plumage, darkest at the head with black priamries and tail. The sickle like bill is very slender. The iris is yellow and can be distinguished from the Snail Kite by its tail which has no white patch. sexes are similar but male is slightly larger

Listen to the sound of Slender-billed Kite

[audio: Kite.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 37 cm size max.: 41 cm
incubation min.: 30 days incubation max.: 32 days
fledging min.: 33 days fledging max.: 32 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 4  


Latin America : East Panama through Amazonia


Slender-billed Kite populations appear to be highly localized and restricted to flooded gallery forest or semiforest habitats.


The Slender-billed courtship behavior consists of some aerial display and offering snails by the male to the perched female. Slender-billed Kite nests are usually were built in the crotches of slanting limbs in large trees in the flooded gallery forest. Nest height averages 14 m (9-20 m) above ground, and some sites are reused in subsequent years. Minimum distances between known active pairs ranges from 1.0-l .2 km. All nests are in habitat that flooded during the wet season, with standing water 5-60 cm in depth, but dries nearly completely during the dry season. Most nests are positioned over heavy brush, although sometimes nests are located over open water (pools or borrow-pit pools). The nest is a small platform approximately 50-60 cm in diameter, constructed of bulky dead twigs, and most are placed in bifurcating crotches. Often the nest is surrounded by green leafy twigs that stick into the air at an angle, perhaps to assist in camouflage. Clutch size is 1-4 eggs, usually 2 in one brood. Both parents incubate the eggs for about 30 days. The young are quiet in the nest and fledge after 35 days, but can fly after 40 days.

Feeding habits

The diet consists for 92% of snails and the remaining 8% of freshwater crabs. The Slender-billed Kite feeds on smaller snails than the Snail Kite. the snails are grasped in one or both talon(s) and held against a limb, the kite inserted its bill, presumably between the shell and operculum, and twisted its neck back and forth to pull off the operculum. The remaining snail body is than consumed.

Video Slender-billed Kite


copyright: D. Ascanio


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). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be small, but it is not believed to 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.
Common in the coastal regions of Surinam preferring the edges of forests where flooded. The species also soars high above the trees in contrast to the Snail Kite.
Slender-billed Kite status Least Concern


Probably sedentary in all of its range.

Distribution map

Slender-billed Kite distribution range map

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