Family Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)

Least Concern

Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus axillaris)


French: Élanion d’Australie German: Australischer Gleitaar Spanish: Elanio australiano
Other common names: Australian Black-shouldered Kite, Australian Kite

Falco axillaris


, 1801,

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


In the past referred to by specific name notatus on grounds that axillaris supposedly unidentifiable and could have applied to E. scriptus; this, however, unfounded#R. Traditionally thought to form a species-group with E. caeruleus and E. leucurus; all three sometimes considered conspecific, but differ variously in plumage, morphology and behaviour. Monotypic.


Australia: breeds mainly in SE corner, from N of Cairns (Queensland) to W side of Eyre Peninsula (South Australia), but also in S & NW coastal strip of Western Australia, and around Darwin and Melville I (Northern Territory)#R; occasional in Tasmania.

Descriptive notes

33–37 cm; male 181–300 g, female 270–365 g; wingspan 82–94 cm. Falcon-like kite with relatively large, rounded head, pointed wings (exceed short tail... read more


Considered to be mainly silent except in breeding season. Vocalizations rather weak though... read more


Grassland and other sparsely wooded habitats with ground cover of 30–150 cm in height,... read more

Food and feeding

Mostly small rodents (especially house mice); occasionally small birds, lizards and large insects (especially grasshoppers). Forages mostly... read more


Season variable, throughout most of year (Mar–Jan) with peaks in autumn and spring (mostly Jun–Oct in E and Nov–Jan in W... read more


Resident populations in temperate coastal lowlands; others dispersive, partly migratory and... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Common and widespread; has increased in range and numbers in cleared and farmed areas of S & SW Australia in response... read more

Recommended citation

Debus, S., Kirwan, G.M. & Marks, J.S. (2019). Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus axillaris). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 25 May 2019).