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Black-winged Kite Elanus caeruleus
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.


Behaviour This species is widely distributed from 44ᵒN to 35ᵒS, across the Afrotropical and Indomalayan regions, with marginal occurrence in the Western Palearctic and north Australasia (Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001). Population densities range from rare to locally abundant. Numbers are increasing in Iberia (Snow and Perrins, 1998), coinciding with the clearance of oak woodlands and understory vegetation (Shirihai et al., 2000). It is very rare in north west Africa and north Borneo, and has decreased in Java (Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001). The species is generally sedentary in the Palearctic, with some movements to more open habitats during winter (Snow and Perrins, 1998). Juveniles will generally disperse from natal grounds. In tropical regions individuals are more nomadic, undertaking seasonal migrations with the rains and in response to prey numbers. Movements can be eruptive in both tropical Africa and India (Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001). The species is recorded as a vagrant in the Middle East, but there are no records of regular passage in this region (Shirihai et al., 2000). Habitat The species occupies relatively open habitats at a range of altitudes (0-750m in West Palearctic; 0-2000m in southern Asia; 0-3000m in Africa), ranging from semi-desert to forest margins and clearings within densely forested areas. It is generally absent in continuous forest tracts and steep mountainous areas and will opportunistically use areas cleared after fires (Snow and Perrins, 1998). In the non-breeding season, communal roosts in trees or reed beds have been known to host up to 500 individuals (although most frequently 15-20), with birds dispersing to individual territories during the day (del Hoyo et al., 1994). Diet The species’ prey comprise small grassland mammals (up to 90g), reptiles, birds and insects, hunting its quarry from both a perch and hovering vantage, as well as quartering the ground and hawking insects in flight. It will often hunt during dawn and dusk (del Hoyo et al., 1994). Breeding Site Nests are made of small twigs lined with finer material, and are located in tree branches 3-20m above the ground, usually in open areas (del Hoyo et al., 1994). The same tree may be occupied in successive years although new nests are usually built each year. The breeding season spans February to August in the West Palearctic region, whilst in Africa and India breeding begins at the end of the wet season, with the species double-brooding according to food availability (Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001). Management Information Although there has been a recent expansion of the species’ range in northern Egypt, historically numbers have fluctuated, possibly as a result of the application of rodent poisons and pesticides which may be in use throughout its range. In general, the species is able to exploit disturbed or cleared areas and increase its breeding productivity under favourable prey conditions and so, on the whole, it is successful.

The species is likely to be threatened by the use of rodenticides and pesticides within its range (Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001). No other threats are documented (del Hoyo et al., 1994).

del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. 1994. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Ferguson-Lees, J.; Christie, D. A. 2001. Raptors of the world. Christopher Helm, London.

Shirihai, H.; Yosef, R.; Alon, D.; Kirwan, G. M.; Spaar, R. 2000. Raptor migration in Israel and the Middle East: a summary of 30 years of field research. International Birding and Research Center in Eilat, Eilat, Israel.

Snow, D. W.; Perrins, C. M. 1998. The Birds of the Western Palearctic vol. 1: Non-Passerines. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Further web sources of information
Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Harding, M.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Elanus caeruleus. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Black-winged kite (Elanus caeruleus) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles)
Species name author (Desfontaines, 1789)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Stable
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 26,600,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Projected distributions under climate change
- 2015 European Red List assessment