Family Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)

Near Threatened

Letter-winged Kite (Elanus scriptus)


French: Élanion lettré German: Schwarzachselaar Spanish: Elanio escrito

Elanus scriptus


, 1842,

Cooper Creek, South Australia


Possibly belongs in the E. caeruleus species-group#R (see preceding three species). Monotypic.


Distribution. Australia, mainly in interior of Northern Territory, W Queensland and N South Australia and New South Wales, with occasional irruptions (and sometimes nesting) in other regions (not in W desert and far NE)#R.

Descriptive notes

34–37 cm; 160–427 g; wingspan 84–89 cm. Falcon-like kite, with relatively large, rounded head and long wings that clearly reach beyond tail tip at rest.... read more


Unlike many raptors, noisy at most seasons not only when breeding, giving various whistling or... read more


Sparsely timbered dry grasslands and plains of arid and semi-arid zones; occasionally irrupts into... read more

Food and feeding

Mostly rodents, especially long-haired rats (Rattus villosissimus) and plains mice (Pseudomys australis), particularly... read more


Season irregular; continuous, mostly autumn to spring, Aug–Jan, and often from May during times of abundant prey following rains, but... read more


Dispersive and irruptive, with particularly large irruptions in 1976–1977 and 1993–1995... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened. Currently considered Near Threatened. CITES II. Population size subject to extreme fluctuations and therefore almost impossible to assess. In years... read more

Recommended citation

Debus, S., Kirwan, G.M., Christie, D.A. & Marks, J.S. (2019). Letter-winged Kite (Elanus scriptus). 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 21 May 2019).