White-tailed Kites: Introduction

In recent years, three pairs of breeding kites have hunted and nested on More Mesa. In 2003, fifteen baby kites were successfully raised from five different nests, with two of the three adult pairs double-clutching. It is early in the season yet for 2004, but four young kites have been successfully fledged from the first East nest and three from the West nest.

The White-tailed Kite is one of 13 fully protected California birds. It’s importance can be measured by noting other well-known California birds that share this same designation: American Peregrine Falcon, Brown Pelican, California Condor, Greater Sandhill Crane, Southern Bald Eagle and Trumpeter Swan.

Please note, in the text below, numbers in parentheses refer to references listed numerically in the “References” section at the end. These pages were finalized May 31st, 2004.

White-tailed Kites belong to the “Elanus” species. There are four recognized species of “Elanus” kites in the world. Between 1981 and 1994, all Elanus kites were grouped together under the name black-shouldered kite or Elanus caeruleus. After 1994, they were once again classified as separate species (3), described below.

White-tailed kite of the Americas, Elamus leucurus
The white-tailed kite Elanus leucurus, has two recognized sub-species: Elanus leucurus leucurusof South America, and the larger Elanus leucurus majusculus of North America (3,7), the species of kite found on More Mesa.

Black-winged kite, Elanus caeruleus
There are two subspecies of the black-winged kite.
One of these, Elanus caeruleus caeruleus can be found in most parts of lowland Africa, the extreme southwest regions of Europe, and the lowlands of many countries in southeastern Asia. The other, Elanus caeruleus hypoleucos inhabits the lowlands of Malaysia, Philippines and New Guinea. (7)

Black-shouldered kites, Elanus axillaries and scriptus
Two species of the black-shouldered kite are found in Australia. The first, named, black-shouldered kite Elanus axillaries, lives in Australian savanna, grassland and open forests. Elanus scriptus, the letter-winged kite, is found in the interior of Australia in savanna areas, and along watercourses. (7)