Family Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)

Least Concern

White-tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus)


French: Élanion à queue blanche German: Weißschwanzaar Spanish: Elanio maromero

Milvus leucurus


, 1818,



Traditionally thought to form a species-group with E. caeruleus and E. axillaris; all three sometimes considered conspecific, but differ variously in plumage, morphology and behaviour. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • E. l. majusculus Bangs & T. E. Penard, 1920 – W & S USA from Washington S to California and S Arizona, and S Texas E to S Florida (occasionally to South Carolina), and Mexico; also most of Central America S to Costa Rica (race uncertain).
  • E. l. leucurus (Vieillot, 1818) – Panama and W & E Colombia E to the Guianas and N Brazil, S through Amazonia to Argentina (Chubut, Mendoza and Buenos Aires) and C Chile (Valdivia and Chiloé).
  • Descriptive notes

    35–43 cm; 241–375 g; wingspan 88–102 cm. Above pale bluish grey with black shoulder, below white. Differs from allopatric E. caeruleus in underwing... read more


    Generally silent. Most common calls are a short, weak, whistled “kewp” or “pju” used in contact by... read more


    Open or cleared agricultural or range lands, natural shrublands and grasslands, lightly wooded... read more

    Food and feeding

    Primarily mice and voles, but also other small mammals, occasionally birds, lizards and amphibians; 95–98% rodents, most weighing... read more


    Pairing starts in Jan in California; in Panama eggs in Dec, fledged young in Jun; nesting Feb–May in N South America; Sept–Nov... read more


    Migratory or nomadic, when prey abundance declines; in California, one population stayed in a... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Seems to be increasing over much of range, especially from S Mexico to Panama, with Nicaraguan birds apparently of... read more

    Recommended citation

    Bierregaard, R.O., Jr, Marks, J.S., Boesman, P. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). White-tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus). 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).