The Pearl Kite is the smallest Neotropical raptor. It is widespread throughout the dry to arid regions of South America, with an isolated population in Nicaragua. It is found in a wide variety of habitats; it prefers shrubby pasture, cerrado and open tropical woodland, but also occurs, at least locally, along the edges of tropical lowland evergreen forest. Pearl Kites perch fairly conspicuously upon tall shrubs or snags. From these perches they drop to the ground in a short dive to capture their quarry, which almost exclusively are small lizards. Though very small, its raptor-like posture, dark back, white collar and underparts, and black cap and mask render it unmistakable. Formerly thought to be a related to the falcons (Falconidae) due its small size and plumage pattern, the Pearl Kite is more likely a close relative of the kite genus Elanus, based on evidence from feather lice and anatomical features.