Black-shouldered kite

Black-shouldered kite
Elanus axillaris

(Photo from Revista Imán Sinopsis)

Common name:
black-shouldered kite (en); peneireiro-cinzento-australiano (pt); élanion d’Australie (fr); elanio australiano (es); Australischer gleitaar (de)

Order Falconiformes
Family Accipitridae

This species is endemic to Australia, being found throughout the country, including Tasmania.

These birds are 33-38 cm long and have a wingspan of 80-95 cm. They weigh around 290 g.

The black-shouldered kite is found in dry grasslands with scattered trees, dry savannas, arable land and along rivers and streams. Also on the outskirts of small towns, over coastal dunes and marshes.

They feed mainly on mice and other small mammals, especially the introduced house mouse Mus musculus, often following outbreaks of mouse plagues in rural areas. They also hunt grasshoppers, small reptiles, birds and rarely rabbits.

Black-shouldered kites are monogamous and breed in July-January. The nest is built by both sexes, consisting of a large untidy shallow cup of sticks, placed high on a tree or on an artificial structure such as a bridge or power pole, usually 5-20 m above the ground. They also use old nests abandoned by crows,magpies or ravens. The female lays 3-4 dull white eggs with reddish-brown blotches, which are incubated for about 34 days. The chicks fledge 36-38 days after hatching but continue to receive food from the parents for another 1-3 weeks.

IUCN status – LC (Least Concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and a global population estimated to be over 100.000 individuals. The population may be increasing as clearance for agriculture has lead to an increase in suitable habitat and growing populations of prey species such as the house mice.

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