Black Kite

A widespread raptor, the black kite (Milvus migrans) is found in Europe,  Asia, Africa, and Australia as well as some of the islands of Oceania. There are at least six subspecies of M. migrans. I believe, since these photographs were taken in Japan along the Inland Sea, Kagawa , that this black kite belongs to the lineatus subspecies. Most northern populations migrate south in the winter.

Black kites are very adaptive and opportunistic birds. They can be found in and around forests, open woodlands, grasslands and human settlements. In addition to their normal diet of small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects and young or injured birds, black kites will also scavenge and eat carrion. They can be found feasting on road kill, dead fish along the coast and even refuse in garbage dumps. Often black kites will hunt in flocks and pirate other raptors’ kills. When foraging, black kites will slowly circle then fold their wings, dive, and stretch out their feet to grasp and carry off prey in their talons.

The plumage of black kites is variable depending on subspecies and location. Generally black kites have dark brown upper plumage and a paler brown lower body. The outer flight feathers are black. The head and neck are a paler brown, often appearing whitish depending on the light, while there is a patch behind the eyes that is darker in color. This eye patch gives rise to another common name for a black kite, black-eared kite. A yellow cere and gape surround the black kite’s black bill. Its legs are yellow with black talons.

Black kites nest singly or in loose colonies, usually  in trees, especially conifers. Cliffs and utility pylons are also nesting sites. The female lays dull white eggs with brown or violet spots. Often the abandoned nests of other species are utilized. The clutch size, incubation period and time in the nest before fledging depends again on the subspecies and location.

It was exciting to watch this beautiful raptor foraging along Japan’s beautiful inland sea.


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