On the morning of 5th August 2007, Chan Yoke Meng succeeded in recording a series of images of a pair of Black-shouldered Kites (Elanus caeruleus) in the act of copulation. The female bird was perching at the top of a vertical dead stem of a tree when the male flew in from behind (above). Wings fully stretched, tail feathers fanned and talons at the ready, he landed on her back (below).
The moment he grasped her back with his talons, she crouched low with wings extending downwards below the tail. He had to maintain his balance by flapping his wings (below).
In a flash he made cloacal contact. It is during this “cloacal kiss” that sperm are transferred from the male’s cloaca into the cloaca of the female. The act was over in less than two seconds (below).
The cloacal contact caused the male to release his grip on her and he slipped down slightly before projecting himself upwards. All these movements caused the female to stabilise herself with wings outstretched (below).
With a final flap of his wings, the male flew off with wings fully stretched and feet hanging down, to finally glide away from the female.
According to the literature, copulation normally takes place at or around the nest site. And copulation can occur up to ten or more times a day for a few days. Prior to copulation, there would be aerial displays and courtship feeding, but these were not observed on that morning.
Subsequently, the pair continued with their nest building activities. Unfortunately there was a murder of crows around. And as with all House Crows (Corvus splendens), they harassed the pair of kites, so much so that the pair may have abandoned their nest building efforts.
Did the kites fly off to look for another nesting site? Away from the aggressive crows and where there is more privacy? Your guess is as good as mine.
Input and images by Chan Yoke Meng.