The exclusively neotropical range of the Plumbeous Kite covers southeastern Mexico and all countries in Central and South America, with the exclusion of Uruguay and Chile.
Plumbeous Kite Members of the species breed from eastern Mexico to Bolivia, as well as in northern Argentina and southern Brazil (Ridgely and Gwynne 1992). The northernmost breeding localities are in southern Tamaulipas, Mexico (Howell and Webb 1995). Migratory at the northern and southern edges of their range, Plumbeous Kites leave their ranges in Mexico and Central America to winter in South America (Seavy et al. 1998). In Panama flocks of up to several hundred migrants can be seen passing over between early February and mid-March, and again between early August and late September (Ridgely and Gwynne 1992).
Distribution outside the Americas
Plumbeous Kite is endemic to the Americas.
The Plumbeous Kite occurs primarily in humid, lowland forests and forest edges. It is relatively common and widespread in Amazonia, where it has been recorded at elevations up to 1500 m.
A fossil of the distal half of a tarsometatarsus was collected in Sonora, Mexico in recent years, marking the first discovery ever made of an Ictinia fossil. The fossil specimen was identified as belonging to the genus Ictinia, instead of other small accipitrids in the New World, by a combination of several factors including a relatively long and wide foramen vasculare distale and a wide Trochlea metatarsi II (which, for example, differentiated it from Elanus, Harpagus, and Accipiter). The tarsometatarsus specimen is larger than any available specimens of the two Ictinia species, Plumbeous and Mississippi, living today. Because the two species can not be distinguished from one another merely by their distal tarsometatarsi, it is unknown whether the recently discovered fossil is a record of the Plumbeous or Mississippi Kite. It should be noted, however, that there are no modern records for the presence of either of these species in Sonora (Steadman 2010).
Yu, H. (2012). Plumbeous Kite (Ictinia plumbea), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/nb.plukit1.01