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Swallow-tailed Kite Elanoides forficatus


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Swallow-tailed Kite
credit: FWS

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Accipitridae, Hawks and Eagles view all from this family

Description ADULT Has white head, neck, and underparts (including underwing coverts), and otherwise blackish plumage. At close range, note the red eye. In flight, from below, blackish flight feathers and tail contrast with otherwise white plumage. JUVENILE Similar to adult, but tail is shorter and eye is brown.

Dimensions Length: 22-24" (56-61 cm); Wngspn: 4' 2" (1.3 m)

Habitat Scarce breeding visitor (present mainly Mar-Jul) to southeastern wetlands. Winters in South America.

Observation Tips Florida's Big Cypress and Corkscrew swamps are hotspots for the species.

Range Texas, Florida, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast

Voice Utters yickering, shrill whistles.

Discussion Stunning and unmistakable raptor with extremely long wings and diagnostic long, deeply forked tail. A superbly maneuverable aeronaut capable of seemingly effortless flight, soaring and gliding with ease; tail is twisted and flexed to aid directional control. Usually captures prey (frogs, reptiles, and insects) while in flight, often plucking prey from ground or foliage. Sexes are similar.