Family Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)

Least Concern

Black-winged Kite (Elanus caeruleus)


French: Élanion blac German: Gleitaar Spanish: Elanio común
Other common names: Black-shouldered Kite, Common Black-shouldered Kite

Falco caeruleus


, 1789,

Algiers, Algeria


Traditionally thought to form a species-group with E. axillaris and E. leucurus; all three sometimes considered conspecific, but differ variously in plumage, morphology and behaviour. Form hypoleucus has been treated as separate species; vociferus sometimes included in nominate#R. Race wahgiensis sometimes included in hypoleucus. Proposed races sumatranus (from Sumatra) and intermedius (Java) doubtfully separable from hypoleucus. Four subspecies normally recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • E. c. caeruleus (Desfontaines, 1789) – SW France, N & W Iberian Peninsula, most of Africa and SW Arabia.
  • E. c. vociferus (Latham, 1790) – Pakistan and much of Indian Subcontinent E to S China, Indochina and Malay Peninsula; this race also colonizing Israel#R, Jordan#R and possibly areas farther E (Iraq and Iran, and NE & E Arabian Peninsula)#R.
  • E. c. hypoleucus Gould, 1859 – Philippines, Greater Sundas, Sulawesi, Kalao (S of Sulawesi) and W & C Lesser Sundas (E to Timor).
  • E. c. wahgiensis Mayr & Gilliard, 1954 – New Guinea lowlands.
  • Descriptive notes

    30–37 cm; male 197–277 g, female 219–343 g; wingspan 77–92 cm. Distinctive black shoulder patches evident at all ages, when perched or in buoyant,... read more


    Generally, vocalizations are high-pitched and weak, and given most frequently in courtship and... read more


    Open savanna grasslands with scattered bushes and small trees; extends into arid steppe, desert or... read more

    Food and feeding

    Primarily rodents of 40–90 g (exceptionally up to 164 g); shrews, bats, small birds (including doves, larks, pipits and emberizids),... read more


    In Spain, copulation begins up to 44 days before onset of laying and may continue until 66 days after laying. Peak laying at start or end... read more


    Nomadic, ranging widely throughout its extensive range, in search of conditions supporting abundant... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. One of the commonest birds of prey throughout its wide range, e.g. estimated 44,000 pairs in Transvaal alone. Widespread... read more

    Recommended citation

    Kemp, A.C., Kirwan, G.M., Marks, J.S., Motis, A. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2020). Black-winged Kite (Elanus caeruleus). 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 24 February 2020).