Swallow-tailed Kite Elanoides forficatus
- Very long black forked tail
- White head, chest, belly and leading portion of underwing
- Black flight feathers
- Black back
- Medium-sized, graceful, long-winged, long-tailed hawk
- Pointed wings
- Short, dark, hooked bill
- Sexes similar
Wet open woodlands, bottomlands, wooded river swamps, marshes, wetlands, and along rivers, ponds and lakes. Agile and graceful in flight. Eats in flight by bending head and neck under body to eat prey held in talon. Will drink in flight, much like a swallow. Gregarious. Will sweep low over open fields and grasslands to catch food or soar very high for flying insects.
NESTING & FEEDING:
BREEDING: Lowland forest, especially swampy areas extending into open woodland. 1? brood. Mating system is monogamous.
DISPLAYS: In flight: easy sailing, curving chase often over water. On perch: mutual approach on horizontal limb, face-off, female quickly turns or backs under limb. Courtship feeding.
NEST: Usually 60-130 feet up in treetop concealed by thick foliage; on foundation of preceding year's nest. Of sticks, twigs, moss, pine needles, leaves, lichen. Lined with fine materials, few feathers. Both sexes help with nest construction.
EGGS: 2 White, marked with browns, occasionally lavender, often concentrated at end. 1.8" (47 mm).
CHICK DEVELOPMENT: Both sexes incubate. Incubation takes 28 days. Development is semialtricial (immobile, downy, eyes open, fed). Young are able to fly after 36-42 days. Both sexes tend young.
DIET: Large insects, also including nestlings, lizards, occasionally fruit. Usually eats in flight.
CONSERVATION: Winters from Colombia and Venezuela S. Marsh drainage, deforestation, and shooting responsible for reduction in population and range.
NOTES: Occasionally nest in loose colonies of a few pairs. Bathe and drink by skimming water surface like swallow. Occasionally soar at great heights. Up to 200 pieces used in nest, carried individually, may require up to 800 miles of flight. Formerly known as American Swallow-tailed Kite; changed by AOU in 1996.
Elanoides forficatus SWALLOW-TAILED KITE. Forest, swamps, open woodland. Lowlands of se U.S. from S. Carolina s to Florida and w to e Texas (formerly more widespread to the north and west). Mexico in lowlands and foothills to 2600 m in ne Chiapas, s Campeche, s Quintana Roo and Guatemala s (except El Salvador) to Panama, and from Colombia, Venezuela, Trinidad and Guianas s, west of Andes to nw Peru (Tumbes) and e of Andes through e Ecuador, e Peru (to 5000 m), e Bolivia and Brazil to Uruguay and n Argentina (Jujuy, Salta, e Chaco, Misiones, Corrientes). Winters in Middle (rarely) and S. America. Ranges in migration n to s Canada and to sw U.S.