|White-tailed kite with prey.|
Elanus caeruleus leucurus
Their coloration is gull-like, but their shape and flight falcon-like, with a rounded tail. Mainly white underneath, they have black wingtips and shoulders. A mid-sized kite, it measures 35–43 cm (14–17 in) in length, spans 88–102 cm (35–40 in) across the wings and weighs 250–380 g (8.8–13.4 oz). Both the wings, at 29–32.8 cm (11.4–12.9 in) each, and the tail, at 15.1–18.6 cm (5.9–7.3 in), are relatively elongated. The tarsus measures around 3.6 cm (1.4 in).
For some recent decades, it was lumped with the black-winged kite of Europe and Africa as Elanus caeruleus and was collectively called black-shouldered kite. More recently it was argued that the white-tailed kite differed from the Old World species in size, shape, plumage, and behavior, and that these differences were sufficient to warrant full species status. This argument was accepted by the American Ornithologists' Union, so the white-tailed kite was returned to its original name. Meanwhile, the Old World E. caeruleus is once again called black-winged kite, while the name black-shouldered kite is now reserved for an Australian species, Elanus axillaris, which had also been lumped into E. caeruleus but is now regarded as separate again.
The white-tailed kite was rendered almost extinct in California in the 1930s and 1940s due to shooting and egg-collecting, but they are now common again. Their distribution is patchy, however. They can be found in the Central Valley and southern coastal areas, open land around Goleta including the Ellwood Mesa Open Space, marshes in Humboldt County, and also around the San Francisco Bay. Elsewhere, they are still rare or absent. They are also found in southern Texas, on the Baja California peninsula, and in eastern Mexico. Globally, they are not considered threatened species by the IUCN. On rare occasions the bird can be found far outside its usual range. At different times, two had been sighted in New England as of 2010. [n 1]
White-tailed kites feed principally on rodents, and they are readily seen patrolling or hovering over lowland scrub or grassland. They rarely if ever eat other birds, and even in open cerrado, mixed-species feeding flocks will generally ignore them. Outside the breeding season, they roost communally in groups of up to 100.
- BirdLife International (2012). "Elanus leucurus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- Ferguson-Lees, James; Christie, David A.; Franklin, Kim; Mead, David; Burton, Philip (2001). Raptors of the World. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-618-12762-3.
- Parkes, K.C. (1958). "Specific relationships in the genus Elanus" (PDF). Condor 60 (2): 139–140.
- Clark, W.S.; Banks, R.C. (1992). "The taxonomic status of the White-tailed Kite" (PDF). The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 104 (4): 571–579.
- Ragusa-Netto, J. (2000). "Raptors and "campo-cerrado" bird mixed flock led by Cypsnagra hirundinacea (Emberizidae: Thraupinae)". Revista Brasileira de Biologia 60 (3): 461–467. doi:10.1590/S0034-71082000000300011. PMID 11188872.
- Sanders, Jack (19 August 2010). "Bird Notes: Hummingbird antics and some rare visitors". The Ridgefield Press (Ridgefield, Connecticut).
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Elanus leucurus.|
|Wikispecies has information related to: Elanus leucurus|
- White-tailed Kite – Elanus Leucurus – USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter
- White-tailed Kite Species Account – Cornell Lab of Ornithology
- White-tailed Kite Stamps at bird-stamps.org
- White-tailed Kite videos, photos, and sounds at the Internet Bird Collection
- White-tailed kite photo gallery at VIREO (Drexel University)
- BirdLife species factsheet for Elanus leucurus
- White-tailed Kite species account at NeotropicalBirds (Cornell University)