Family Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)

Least Concern

Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus)


French: Naucler à queue fourchue German: Schwalbenweih Spanish: Elanio tijereta
Other common names: American Swallow-tailed Kite

Falco forficatus


, 1758,

America = Carolina, east USA


Races rather poorly differentiated, and validity of subspecific division sometimes questioned. Two subspecies generally recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • E. f. forficatus (Linnaeus, 1758) – coastal SE USA from S Carolina to SE Texas; winters in South America.
  • E. f. yetapa (Vieillot, 1818) – S Mexico (except Yucatán Peninsula) S through Central America (excluding El Salvador) to E Bolivia, Paraguay and N Argentina; populations of Mexico and Central America and Trinidad winter in South America.
  • Descriptive notes

    52–66 cm; race forficatus 325–612 g, race yetapa 390–505 g; wingspan 119–136 cm. Unmistakable, with relatively small head and bill,... read more


    Most vocal during display flights and around nest (while building or in defence thereof) or at... read more


    Primarily over forests in tropical and subtropical zones, perhaps higher; sometimes shows certain... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects, often feeding on insect swarms or hatches, e.g. of Atta sexdens, at high altitude and sometimes with Ictinia plumbea... read more


    Laying in mid Mar in Florida and mid Mar to mid Apr (exceptionally mid May) in Guatemala; season Jan–May/Jun in Costa Rica; Mar in... read more


    Migratory in N and S of range, over USA, much of Middle America and on Trinidad, and S of Tropic of... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Relatively common over much of its extensive distribution. Estimated average density of at least 10 individuals/10,000 ha... read more

    Recommended citation

    Bierregaard, R.O., Jr & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus). 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 January 2020).