White-Tailed Kite: The Ultimate Guide


The white-tailed kite is a small to medium-sized raptor breed of bird that is characterized by narrow and pointed wings, with a long tail.

Due to this unusual body shape, it means that the head of the white-tailed kite is often quite large in comparison to the rest of its body. As for its color pattern?

While subtle differences can be seen from bird to bird, white-tailed kites will typically have a totally white tail with black patches positioned across the shoulder area. The white-tailed kite will also tend to have a totally white head with red eyes. 

Male Vs Female

Similar to other raptor birds, there is very little difference between male and female white-tailed kites.

Unlike other hawks, in which the female is often significantly larger than the male, both sexes of white-tailed kites tend to be around 12.5-15.1 inches in length (which works out to 26 cm-38 cm) and around 0.62 lb-0.75 lb (0.28 kg 0.34 kg) in weight.

In addition to this, another interesting fact about the two sexes is that they both have the same wingspan of 99-110 cm, which is the equivalent of 39.0-43.3 inches.

Are They Aggressive?

Towards humans and their own kind, white-tailed kites do not usually tend to show any aggression or threatening behavior.

Needless to say, we do not recommend that you try to approach one of their nests or try to corner one of these birds, because if they feel threatened, then they very well will attack in order to protect themselves or assert their dominance. 

What Adaptations Do They Have?

As a small breed of the raptor, the white-tailed kite has a variety of adaptations that set them apart from other types of birds.

For example, the white-tailed kite has strong feet, forward-facing eyes, and curved beaks that are all advantageous for survival in the wild, while their sharp nails and talons are ideal for catching and killing prey.

In addition to this, the white-tailed kite is also quite a clever bird and has learned to be strategic when it comes to nesting.

Due to their smaller sizes and helpless young, white-tailed kites will build their nests extremely high off the ground, at a height of around 80 feet (24 meters) for maximum safety and obscurity. 

Breeding / Reproduction Behaviour

As is true for many species of bird, the white-tailed kite is a largely monogamous raptor that forms a pair during the month of December.

Once the pair has been formed, they will stay together for the following year, beginning the nest-building process in early January before then proceeding to make the chicks.

Then, once the year draws to a close the following December, the pair will split to form new – although, in rare instances, the pair may actually stay together as lifelong pairs. 

Their Calls / Sounds

White-tailed kites are not overly loud birds that vocalize to show their dominance. Instead, they are a quieter raptor breed that prefers to make a quiet, whistling noise all throughout the year, frequently throughout the day.

In addition to this, it is also worth noting that, due to the fact that white-tailed kites are highly sociable birds, they will also frequently chirp to one another to communicate, and this is especially high during nesting, breeding, and caring for the young.

What Do They Eat (Diet)

Small but mighty, the white-tailed kite is a carnivorous raptor that mainly feeds on small rodents, and is particularly adept at catching rodents that are most active during the day including house mice.

In rare circumstances, the white-tailed kite may even feed on shrews, rabbits, frogs, lizards, snakes, and even fish if near water.

Where Do They Live (Habitat)

The white-tailed kite can be found in many places around the world, although this particular species of raptor thrives best in savannas, swamps, grasslands, and woodlands.

This species of small raptor is native to certain parts of South America, as well as western North America, too. 

What Are Their Nesting Habits

White-Tailed Kite

The white-tailed kite is a monogamous species that forms yearly partnerships.

These partnerships are made for companionship and reproduction reasons, which is why, as soon as the partnership has been formed in the month of December, white-tailed kites will then begin working together to build a nest.

The nest is typically made of grass and sticks and is commonly located 60-80 feet (18-24 meters) above ground to keep the young safe, as newborn white-tailed kite kites are very vulnerable and unable to care for themselves.

How Long To They Live (Lifespan)

Believe it or not, it is quite common for white-tailed kites to live for up to 25-30 years while in the wild, and sometimes even longer if they are kept in captivity.

Nevertheless, a variety of biological and situational threats can cut this expected lifespan short, such as predators or lack of food. 

What Predators Do They Have?

Even though the white-tailed kite is a raptor, it isn’t the biggest of all birds, which does mean that they are at risk of being hunted by certain predators.

More often than not, the most common predators that the white-tailed kite is at most risk of being hunted by are golden eagles, black-shouldered kites, Indian vultures, as well as wedge-tailed eagles. 

What Are Their Feathers Like?

As juveniles, the white-tailed kite will usually have gray and white feathers that are almost “fluffy” in appearance.

But, as soon as they reach full maturity, the feathers of the white-tailed kite tend to be smooth and neat in appearance, with the most common colors being pure white and grey, almost like a seagull.

Around their chest area, the feathers are usually dark in appearance and close to the shade of black, while the tail is usually clear white – hence the name. 

What Does Their Poop Look Like?

Just like other types of birds, the poop of the white-tailed kite tends to be white in appearance when fresh with a consistency that can be likened to toothpaste. Once it has been given time, fecal will often gain firmness.

Do They Migrate?

Unlike other types of raptors that frequently migrate each year with the turning of the seasons, the white-tailed kite does not do this and does not have an officially recognized migration pattern.

Despite this fact, it is widely known that white-tailed kites do frequently opt to migrate far and wide (showing little preference for climate) in order to search for prey.

Interestingly, white-tailed kites are an incredibly social breed of bird, which means that when they do pack up and decide to migrate in search of prey, they will often go in large groups of up to 100!

Conservation Status

At the time of writing this guide, the white-tailed kite currently has a conservation status classification of “least concern” which is great news because it means that their population is increasing more and more each year. 

Fun Facts

So, there we have it! Now that you know everything there is to know about this small species of raptor, to round up this guide we’re going to be finishing with some interesting and fun facts about the white-tailed species that you might not know.

Take a look at them below to see if you learn anything new about this interesting species:

Even though the white-tailed kite has an increasing population, it hasn’t always been that way. During the 1970s, the white-tailed kites saw a significant drop in their populations that put them at risk of extinction.

Thankfully, that didn’t occur, and as of right now, this species of bird has a population estimate of around 2 million! 

The white-tailed kite is one of the smallest species of raptor in the world.

The white-tailed kite can live for up to 30 years, sometimes even longer. 

The white-tailed kite is native to western North America and other parts of South America. 

When they hatch as chicks, white-tailed kites are helpless and need to be cared for by their parents. This is why white-tailed kites work so hard to prepare the nest during early January!

While hunting, the white-tailed kite is known to hover until the prey is spotted, at which point it will dive down to grab the prey, with the feet pointing in a downwards motion and the wings held up.

The white-tailed kite is not an overly aggressive or territorial species of raptor. Instead, it is a quieter species of bird that prefers to quietly whistle rather than screech.

Even though the white-tailed kite makes yearly partnerships with each other, in some rare instances, some white-tailed kites will form a lifelong partnership with one another that will last a lifetime.