Black-shouldered Kites at play

posted in: Courtship-Mating, Raptors | 3


Like most raptors, Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus) loves to put on an aerial display (left). It soars on thermals, sailing along in circles with its long and pointed wings held at a distinct V-angle and the feathers of the short, squared tail flared.

A male of a pair flying together may suddenly dive at the female, who may sideslip and present her talons. Occasionally this may result in talon-grappling and even cartwheeling down for a short distance before they unlock their talons.

The distinctive black shoulder patch, from which it gets its name, shows prominently when viewed from below when it is in flight. The black primaries against the whiteness of the rest of the body and the greyish tipped secondaries make the bird distinctive.

Tail-cocking or tail-wagging is a characteristic behaviour of both sexes. The tail may cock up suddenly but on the downstroke it is distinctly slow. In the presence of intruding kites, such movements can become more excited and faster.

In courtship the male may fly around slowly with stiff exaggerated flaps, commonly known as butterfly-flight.

In the series of images (below, right), two kites were about to confront each other with the lower about to bare its talons. But apparently the other decided not to respond and flew off, pursued by the other. Both birds sailed along with wings flapping in slow but strong strokes.


Suddenly a third kite appeared, flying in to join the fray. This no doubt encouraged the persuing kite to catch up with the persued bird as it flew upwards with talons barring (below top). With one swift action the former managed to grip the talons of the latter. For a split second both kites flew along thus before the leading kite turned around and somehow managed to detach itself (below bottom).


YC Wee
April 2007
(Images by Chan Yoke Meng.)


3 Responses

  1. […] flight display Notes: When observing birds feeding on a tree or when the adults are attending to the youngs, […]

  2. […] is exciting to witness such aerial acrobats. See HERE for a more detailed […]

  3. […] 22. Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus) at play LINK. […]


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