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Black-shouldered Kite Sandy Hollow.jpg
Black-shouldered kite (Elanus axillaris)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Accipitriformes
Family: Accipitridae
Subfamily: Elaninae
Genus: Elanus
Savigny, 1809
Type species
Falco caeruleus

Elanus is a genus of bird of prey in the elanine kite subfamily. It was introduced by the French zoologist Jules-César Savigny in 1809 with the black-winged kite (Elanus caeruleus) as the type species.[1][2] The name is from the Ancient Greek elanos for a "kite".[3]

The genus contains four species:[4]

Image Common Name Scientific name[a] Distribution
2011-black-winged-kite.jpg Black-winged kite Elanus caeruleus
(Desfontaines, 1789)
Iberian Peninsula, Africa, Indomalaya and New Guinea
Black-shouldered Kite Sandy Hollow.jpg Black-shouldered kite Elanus axillaris
(Latham, 1801)
Elanus axillaris distribution.svg
Elanus leucurus -Piraju, Sao Paulo, Brazil-8.jpg White-tailed kite Elanus leucurus
(Vieillot, 1818)
Letter-winged Kite (Elanus scriptus)4.jpg Letter-winged kite Elanus scriptus
Gould, 1842
Elanus scriptus range map.png

The first three species above were considered conspecific as subspecies of Elanus caeruleus, which has been known as the black-shouldered kite.[5][6][7]

These are white and grey raptors of open country, with black wing markings and a short square tail. They hunt by slowly quartering the habitat for rodents and other small mammals, birds and insects, sometimes hovering like a kestrel.


  1. ^ A binomial authority in parentheses indicates that the species was originally described in a genus other than Elanus.


  1. ^ Savigny, Jules-César (1809). Jomard, Edme-François (ed.). Description de l'Égypte, ou recueil des observations et des recherches qui ont été faites en Égypte pendant l'expédition de l'armée française, publié par les ordres de sa Majesté l'Empereur Napoléon le Grand (in French). Volume 1. Paris: L'Imprimerie Impériale. pp. 69, 97–98.
  2. ^ Mayr, Ernst; Cottrell, G. William, eds. (1979). Check-list of Birds of the World. Volume 1 (2nd ed.). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Museum of Comparative Zoology. p. 290.
  3. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 144. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  4. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2017). "New World vultures, Secretarybird, kites, hawks & eagles". World Bird List Version 7.3. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
  5. ^ Parkes, Kenneth C. (1958). "Specific relationships in the genus Elanus" (PDF). Condor. 60 (2): 139–40. doi:10.2307/1365270. JSTOR 1365270.
  6. ^ Clark, William S.; Banks, Richard C. (1992). "The taxonomic status of the White-tailed Kite" (PDF). The Wilson Journal of Ornithology. 104 (4): 571–79.
  7. ^ Check-list of North American Birds (6th ed.). Lawrence, Kansas: American Ornithologists' Union. 1983. p. 103. ISBN 0-943610-32-X.
  • Ferguson-Lees, Christie, Franklin, Mead and Burton Raptors of the World ISBN 0-7136-8026-1