The Kite-like White-tailed Kite

White-tailed Kite

White-tailed Kite Photo By Kevin Cole

Identifying Them:

This Raptor has wings like a gull and a body like a White-crowned Sparrow. They are medium-sized birds with a length of 15 inches. Looking at them you may not be able to see that they have long wings that expand for a wingspan of 40 inches.



White-tailed Kites are one of the few birds who rarely live in North America. The only place where the range in the U.S is Western California and Western Oregon which is where I live. Their white bodies do not mean that they love the winter and the snow, in fact they prefer warm places like desert grasslands, woodlands and marshes. They need/want to be in open fields and open grasslands so that they can hunt and spot their prey easily as they are flying by.

Nesting and Nestlings:

They build their nest in the middle to higher parts of a tree. You can see them nesting as low to the ground as 10 feet and as high as 160 feet off the ground. White-tailed Kites build round nests that are 7 inches across and 4 inches deep which they line with hay, grass, twigs and leaves. Both male and female White-tailed Kites choose where they build their nest instead of the female choosing as Red-winged Blackbirds do. Their really aren’t any particular types of trees that they prefer to nest in because people have spotted them living  in more than 20 different kinds of trees.

White-tailed Kites usually only have 4 eggs which are white with brown specks. Like most birds, the incubation period is about a month-long, and while the female takes care of her eggs, the male brings the food. Once the eggs hatch, the mother looks after her young and the male continues to bring food for them. After hatching, a month goes by and the nestlings are capable of flying. They fly around but aren’t able to hunt and get food for themselves until another month.


The White-tailed Kite is a Raptor and eats mainly small animals such as birds and rodents. There was an analysis done and was shown that 95% of their diet is small animals. Occasionally they will eat reptiles and insects but likes to stick with voles and mice. While hunting for prey they will soar next to open grasslands or hovering in flight. Then once they have spotted their food, they will drop down with their feet hanging and will clutch their food in his or hers talons.

White-tailed Kite photographed by Faith Elise

White-tailed Kite photographed by Faith Elise

Random, Interesting Facts:

~In California during the 1940’s they were hunted by people who collected their eggs and feathers going close to extinct. Now they are repopulating slightly in some parts of California.

~They aren’t fans of Winter in general and are very migratory.

~Their amazing wings give them ability to hover like a kite which is what gives them the name White-tailed Kite.

Special thanks to Kevin Cole who photographed the White-tailed Kite.

This entry was posted in Bird Watching, nonfiction, Raptors and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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