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Elanid Kites, Elaninae  

Bat Hawk, Macheiramphus alcinus
Black-winged Kite,
Elanus caeruleus
Black-shouldered Kite, Elanus axillaris

Black-shouldered Kite feeding on a bird at Sandy Hollow, NSW, Australia
Photo: Sandy Hollow

Subfamily Elaninae
- elanid kites (8)
Genus Elanus
Genus Chelictinia
Genus Macheirhamphus

Genus Gampsonyx
Genus Elanoides

An elanid kite, sometimes white-tailed kite, is any of several small, long-winged, hovering raptors. All are specialist rodent
hunters and most are members of the genus Elanus. Some authorities list the group as a formal subfamily, Elaninae.
As a subfamily there are eight species in five genera with four of these genera being monotypic.

Elanid kites have a near-worldwide distribution, with three endemic species found in the Americas, two in Australia, one
each in Africa and southern Asia, while the Black-winged Kite is found over a vast range from Europe and Africa in the
west to Southeast Asia in the east.

Engelsk Norsk Latinsk
Black-winged Kite Svartvingeglente Elanus caeruleus
Black-shouldered Kite, Austr. Australglente Elanus axillaris
White-tailed Kite Hvithaleglente Elanus leucurus
Letter-winged Kite Skriftglente Elanus scriptus
Scissor-tailed Kite Sakseglente Chelictinia riocourii
Pearl Kite Perleglente Gampsonyx swainsonii
Swallow-tailed Kite Svaleglente Elanoides forficatus
Bat Hawk Flaggermusglente Macheiramphus alcinus *)

*) Macheiramphus also spelled Machaerhamphus. Google has 53.900 and 8.230 pages respectively.

Bat Hawk, Macheiramphus alcinus

Bat hawk (Macheiramphus alcinus) at Cape Vidal, Northern Natal, South Africa
Photo: Johan van Rensburg

The Bat Hawk, Macheiramphus alcinus, is a raptor found in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia to New Guinea. It is named for
its diet, which consists mainly of bats. It requires open space in which to hunt, but will live anywhere from dense rainforest to
semi-arid veld.

The Bat Hawk is a slender, medium-sized bird of prey, usually about 45 cm long. It has long wings and a falconine silhouette.
Adults are dark brown or black, with a white patch on the throat and chest, and have a white streak above and below each eye.
Juveniles are mottled brown and have more white plumage than adults.

Bats are the usual prey of the Bat Hawk, although they may eat small birds, such as swallows, swifts and nightjars, or even insects.
They hunt by chasing their prey at high speeds in flight. About 49% of their hunts are successful.
The Bat Hawk is crepuscular (twilight) and hunts at dusk.

Courtship involves many aerial displays and stunts. The nest is built with sticks gathered in flight, and is about 90 cm across and
30 cm deep. The female is solely responsible for incubating her clutch. The male often shares food with her. About a month after
incubation begins, the eggs hatch, and both parents help to feed their young. 30–45 days after hatching, the young fledge.
They leave the nest soon after. Bat Hawks breed most years.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bat_Hawk

Black-winged Kite, Elanus caeruleus

Black-winged Kite, Elanus caeruleus, in Hyderabad, India
Photo: J.M.Garg

The Black-winged Kite, Elanus caeruleus, is a small diurnal bird of prey in the family Accipitridae best known for its habit of
hovering over open grasslands in the manner of the much-smaller kestrels. This Eurasian and African species was sometimes
combined with the Australian Black-shouldered Kite, Elanus axillaris, and the White-tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus, of North
and South America which together form a superspecies. This kite is distinctive, with long-wings, white, grey and black
plumage and owl like forward-facing eyes with red irides. Although mainly seen on the plains, they are sometimes seen on
grassy slopes of hills in the higher elevation regions of Asia. They are not migratory, but make short-distance movements in
response to weather.

This long-winged raptor is predominantly grey or white with black shoulder patches, wing tips and eye stripe. The long falcon-
like wings extend beyond the tail when the bird is perched. In flight, the short and square tail is visible and it is not forked as in
the typical kites of the genus Milvus. When perched, often on roadside wires, it often adjusts its wings and jerks its tail up and
down as if to balance itself. The sexes are alike in plumage. Their large forward-facing eyes and velvety plumage are characters
that are shared with owls and the genus itself has been considered as a basal group within the Accipitridae.

The Black-winged Kite is a species primarily of open land and semi-deserts in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical Asia, but it
has a foothold within Europe in Spain and Portugal. The species range appears to be expanding in southern Europe and
possible in West Asia.

Black-winged Kite, Elanus caeruleus, Etosha Nat. Park, Namibia
Photo: Thomas Schoch

The Black-winged Kite breeds at different times of the year across its range. Although nesting has been noted throughout the
year in India, they appear not to breed in April and May. Courtship is noisy and involves chases and once the pair is formed
they copulate frequently. The nest is a loose platform of twigs in which 3 or 4 eggs are laid. The female spends more effort in
the construction of the nest than the male. The eggs are pale creamy with spots of deep red. Both parents incubate but when
the chicks hatch, the male spends more time on foraging for food. Females initially feed the young, sometimes hunting close to
the nest but will also receive food from the male. After fledging the young birds continue to be dependent for food on the male
parent for about 80 days, initially transferring food at perch and later in the air.

The prey include grasshoppers, crickets and other large insects, lizards and rodents. Injured birds, small snakes and frogs
have also been recorded. The slow hunting flight is like a harrier, but it will hover like a Kestrel. It has on rare occasions been
known to hunt prey in flight. Favourite perches are used for hunting and for feeding but large prey may sometimes be handled
on the ground.In southern Africa, they appear to favour roadside verges for foraging and are sometimes killed by collisions
with vehicles.

These birds roost communally with groups of 15 to 35 (larger numbers in Europe) converging at a large leafy tree.
They are extremely silent and the calls recorded include a high-pitched squeal or a soft whistle. They call a lot mainly
during the breeding season

Black-shouldered Kite, Elanus axillaris

A Black-shouldered Kite at Royal Botanic Gardens, Cranbourne, Melbourne, Australia
Photo: Frankzed

The Black-shouldered Kite, Elanus axillaris, or Australian Black-shouldered Kite is a small raptor found in open habitat
throughout Australia and resembles similar species found in Eurasia and North America, which have in the past also been
named as Black-shouldered Kites. Measuring 35–38 cm in length with a wingspan of 80–95 cm, the adult Black-shouldered Kite
is a small and graceful, predominantly pale grey and white, raptor with black shoulders and red eyes. Their primary call is a clear
whistle, uttered in flight and while hovering.

Though reported across Australia, they are most common in the south-east and south-west corners of the mainland.
Their prefer habitat is open grasslands with scattered trees and they are often seen hunting along roadsides. Like all the
elanid kites, it is a specialist predator of rodents, which it hunts singly or in pairs by hovering in mid-air above open land.

Black-shouldered Kites form monogamous pairs, breeding between August and January. The birds engage in aerial courtship
displays which involve high circling flight and ritualised feeding mid-air. Three or four eggs are laid and incubated for around thirty
days. Chicks are fully fledged within five weeks of hatching and can hunt for mice within a week of leaving the nest. Juveniles
disperse widely from the home territory.

They are sedentary, or nomadic following food sources. Their numbers fluctuate during drought and floods, and can be irruptive
in response to sudden increases in mouse populations. The most distant banding recovery was from South Australia to eastern
New South Wales, a distance of 1000 km.

Although found in timbered country, they are mainly birds of the grasslands. They prefer open areas with scattered clumps of trees,
including tree-lined watercourses through open country. In urban areas they are found on the edge of towns on wasteland or
irregularly mown areas. They also hunt over coastal dunes and drier marshland, and farmland. Black-shouldered Kites are most
often seen hunting over grassy roadside verges.

Black-shouldered Kite hunting from a perch
Author: Mdk572

Black-shouldered Kites live almost exclusively on mice, and have become a specialist predator of house mice in Australia,
often following outbreaks of mouse plagues in rural areas. They take other suitably sized creatures when available, including
grasshoppers, rats, small reptiles, birds, and even (very rarely) rabbits, but mice and other mouse-sized mammals account for
over 90% of their diet. Their influence on mouse populations is probably significant: adults take two or three mice a day each
if they can, around a thousand mice a year. On one occasion a male was observed bringing no less than 14 mice to a nest of
well-advanced fledglings within an hour. In another study, a female Kite was seen to struggle back to fledglings in the nest with
a three-quarters grown rabbit, a heavy load for such a small bird.

Typically, a kite will hover 10 to 12 metresabove a particular spot, peering down intently, sometimes for only a few seconds,
often for a minute or more, then glide swiftly to a new vantage point and hover again.[20] When hunting from a perch, a dead
tree is the preferred platform. When a mouse or other prey is spotted, the kite drops silently onto it, feet-first with wings raised
high; sometimes in one long drop to ground level, more often in two or more stages, with hovering pauses at intermediate heights.
Prey is seized in the talons and about 75% of attacks are successful. Prey can either be eaten in flight or carried back to a perch.
Birds will have a favoured feeding perch, beneath which accumulate piles of pellets or castings.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black-shouldered_Kite



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