Family Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)

Least Concern

Scissor-tailed Kite (Chelictinia riocourii)


French: Élanion naucler German: Schwalbenschwanzaar Spanish: Elanio golondrina
Other common names: Swallow-tailed Kite, African Swallow-tailed Kite

Falco riocourii


, 1821,





S Mauritania and Senegambia E to Ethiopia and Somalia, and S to NE Uganda and Kenya (in extreme E part of range breeds only in Ethiopia and locally in Kenya).

Descriptive notes

33–38 cm; one fat individual 110 g; wingspan 68–76 cm. Tern-like in flight, and in coloration and elongate outer tail feathers, with black bar across underwing-... read more


Only vocalizes frequently during breeding season, when gives rapid chittering, rasping and whistled... read more


Arid sub-Saharan steppe and scrub savanna, usually in areas with Acacia scrub when... read more

Food and feeding

Mainly insects (including locusts, termites and ants) and arachnids; takes more lizards and rodents in breeding season. Study at roosting... read more


Laying May–Aug in W Africa, but Dec–Feb in Senegal; Mar–Jun, Aug in N Kenya, and Mar–Apr in Ethiopia. Builds small... read more


Performs regular movements, but extent varies annually. In W Africa, moves S in Nov at start of dry... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Little studied; status difficult to assess owing to nomadic habits. May be locally common at times, but vulnerable to... read more

Recommended citation

Kemp, A.C., Kirwan, G.M. & Marks, J.S. (2020). Scissor-tailed Kite (Chelictinia riocourii). 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 27 February 2020).