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Scissor-tailed Kite Chelictinia riocourii
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). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be small, but it is not believed to 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)
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.

Population justification
A single roost of 36,000 birds was reported from Senegal in 2008 and a further 10,000 birds at a roost in Mali in 2012 (Kemp et al. 2014). This equates to approximately 24,000 and 6,700 mature individuals respectively. The population is therefore placed in the band 5,000-25,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be in decline owing to improved locust control measures and use of pesticides (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001).


Behaviour The species is distributed across the breadth of the Afrotropics, but in a narrow band largely confined to 15°N to 8°N (with extreme occurrence as much as 19°N in West Africa to 1°S in Kenya). It breeds within the Sahel zone and there is a small resident population in northern Kenya and Uganda (Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001).  It is migratory, moving south (albeit remaining in the northern hemisphere) in November after breeding, coinciding with the start of the dry season. It returns north when the rains begin in February and the overall extent of migration fluctuates annually (del Hoyo et al., 1994). Habitat The species occupies arid savannah and semi-desert habitats from sea level up to 500m (Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001). Diet Its main prey comprises reptiles such as lizards and snakes, insects and spiders, and occasionally small rodents. It gregarious and will gather in groups at the edge of grass fires to capture Orthoptera or near cattle herds to capture insects (Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001; del Hoyo et al., 1994). Breeding Site The species constructs small stick nests (30-40cm diameter) in thorn trees often near to the nests of larger raptors such as Secretarybird and Snake-eagle and sometimes also close to human settlement. Breeding occurs in May to September in the majority of its range, but in Senegal it occurs from December to February and in Kenya from March to June or from August onwards (Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001).

The species has declined over West Africa since the 1970s as a result of locust control, and it is vulnerable to pesticides. Given its reliance on the Sahel zone it is likely to be vulnerable to the on-going deterioration of this environment (del Hoyo et al. 1994, Ferguson- Lees and Christie 2001). Threats to birds breeding in the Sahel include cultivation, wood harvesting and overgrazing (Buij et al. 2013). Tourists and naturalists visiting a large roost site at l'Ile de Kousmar in Senegal may cause disturbance (Pilard et al. 2011).

Buij, R., Cavaillès, S. and Mullié, W.C. 2013. Breeding biology and diet of the African Swallow-tailed Kite (Chelictinia riocourii) in Senegal and Cameroon. Journal of Raptor Research 47(1): 41-53.

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. and Christie, D.A. 2001. Raptors of the world. Christopher Helm, London.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Kemp, A.C., Kirwan, G.M. and Marks, J.S. 2014. Scissor-tailed Kite (Chelictinia riocourii). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. and de Juana, E. (eds), Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive, Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Pilard, P., Lelong, V., Sonko, A. and Riols, C. 2011. Suivi et conservation du dortoir de rapaces insectivores (Faucon crécerellette Falco naumanni et Élanion naucler Chelictinia riocourii) de l'île de Kousmar (Kaolack / Sénégal). Alauda 79(4): 295-312.

Further web sources of information
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. & Ashpole, J

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Chelictinia riocourii. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016.

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.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles)
Species name author (Vieillot, 1822)
Population size 5000-25000 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 5,330,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Projected distributions under climate change