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Elanoides forficatus

Swallow-tailed Kite

  • Order: Accipitriformes
  • Family: Accipitridae
  • Polytypic 2 Subspecies


Elanoides forficatus

Glenville, Georgia; 5 July 2009 © David Cree

Swallow-tailed Kite is an elegant, unmistakable raptor of forests and swamps. It has a white head, white underparts, and white underwing coverts that contrast sharply with glossy black upperparts and entirely black flight feathers. The tail is long and deeply forked and the wings are long and pointed. Highly aerial, this species feeds largely on flying insects over the canopy, but also takes insects, bird chicks, hummingbirds, and even fruit directly from the canopy while in flight. It is often found in groups both while feeding and at roosts. The twig nest is placed in the canopy of a tall tree, often in the smallest branches to avoid terrestrial predators. Migratory populations occur in summer from the southeastern United States south through central America, and also in southern Brazil. Resident populations in much of northern South America are supplemented by migrants both from the north and south.

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Recommended Citation

. 2010. Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online:

This map is based on the maps available from the NatureServe InfoNatura website. The data for these maps are provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Robert Ridgely, James Zook, The Nature Conservancy - Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International - CABS, World Wildlife Fund - US, and Environment Canada - WILDSPACE.

  • Migration/Movement:Complex Migrant
  • Primary Habitat:Tropical lowland evergreen forest
  • Foraging Strata:Aerial
  • Foraging Behavior:Screen
  • Diet:Terrestrial invertebrates
  • Sociality:Solitary/Pairs
  • Mating System:---
  • Nest Form:
  • Clutch: -
  • IUCN Status:Least Concern