Hunting technique of Black-shouldered Kite

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Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus) usually hunts from a perch. The bird spends long periods sitting on a branch of a tall tree in the early morning and late afternoon waiting for a prey. As it sits there, its tail is constantly cocking.

The moment a prey is spotted it drops silently, feet fully extended and wings raised high. It may descend in one long drop or often in two or three stages, hovering in between (left top).

Just before it touches the ground, it makes a fast grab at the prey with its sharp talons, killing it almost at once (left middle). The prey can either be eaten in flight or carried back to a perch (left bottom). With its sharp bill it tears the prey into pieces and swallows it.

Its favourite food includes mice, lizards, snakes, frogs and larger insects.

The kite also forages while flying above ground, frequently stopping to hover. It also hawks locusts and other swarming insects in flight.

Lee Tiah Khee
Singapore
March 2007

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