The Swallow-tailed Kite
A Swallow-tailed Kite is a fun bird to see while bird watching. Below are some tips to help you identify Swallow-tailed Kites. We have also put together a list of fun Swallow-tailed Kite t-shirts, Swallow-tailed Kite bird patches, birdhouses, bird feeders, binoculars, stickers, and other fun bird watching items.
About Swallow-tailed Kites
The Swallow-tailed Kite is considered a pernine raptor that is native to North America. It is well distributed from the southeastern United States to northern Argentina and eastern Peru especially during their breeding season. They may migrate to South America during the winter season in order to avoid the chilly temperatures. The Swallow-tailed Kite was formerly widespread in the southeast and the north to as far as Minnesota. Consequently, they disappeared from many areas in the 20th century although their numbers are currently stable.
Description and Identification
Swallow-tailed Kites are medium-sized birds that are 20-27 inches long, with a wingspan of 3.7-4.5
feet. These birds display monomorphism as both sexes look similar. One striking physical feature
of these raptors is their sharply forked swallow-like tail. Due to this feature, these birds do not need
to flap their wings as regularly as other birds, and they can fly well at slow speeds. These wings
also enable them to perform aerial acrobatics and fly at high speeds. The plumage of Swallow-
tailed kites are predominantly black-and-white. The lower bodies, heads, and necks of these birds
are white — and the tails, wings, and upper bodies are black. The upperparts and tails of Swallow-
tailed kites have green, bronze, and purple bands.
Swallow-tailed Kite Color Pattern
The male and female appear similar in color. Their bodies are contrasting deep black with white flight feathers that can clearly be seen when they are gliding high in the sky foraging for food. The tail, feet, and bill are all black
Swallow-tailed Kite Size
The Swallow-tailed Kite is a relatively large bird when compared to other birds in the family. They have a length spanning between 50-68cm and their wingspan ranges between 112-136cm. They weigh from 310 to 600g.
Swallow-tailed Kite Behavior
This bird spends most of its time in the air catching its prey mid-air and eating it while in the air. They glide and rarely flap their wings. When soaring, they make sharp turns using their tails to aid in the turn.
The Swallow-tailed Kite is a monogamous bird normally pairing up during migration and carry its bond forward for years to come. Multiple pairs are known for nesting near one another while those that are not paired are still instrumental. They carry food and nest material to help other pairs.
Swallow-tailed Kite Food
The primary portion of the diet of these birds is made up of insects. Insects including wasps and
ants are particular favorites. During the breeding season, Swallow-tailed Kites also hunt small
vertebrates such as birds, snakes, frogs, and lizards. Small vertebrates form a large portion of the
diet of younglings. Other rarer prey for these birds is fish and bats. Swallow-tailed Kites residing
in the tropics also commonly eat fruit. Adult kites generally glean from atop branches and
consume their prey in flight. While feeding the nestlings, the adult procures the prey and hands it
over to the female, who tears it up for the nestlings.
The bird eats frogs, lizards, birds, and insects. Adults will often feed on large insects like dragonflies and cicadas.
Swallow-tailed Kite Habitat
Marshes, swamps, and lowlands forests are generally the breeding grounds for these birds.
Swallow-tailed Kites choose areas with the presence of tall trees which are required for nesting,
and open grounds for finding small prey to nourish their nestlings. Habitats that are chosen by
these birds during the breeding season are freshwater and brackish marshes, wet prairies, pine
forests, pine wetlands, and hardwood hammocks. In the winter season, Swallow-tailed Kites search for
habitats that are wet enough to provide sufficient prey for hunting. Savannas, riparian forests, and
humid lowland forests are a few examples of suitable wintering habitats. These birds are generally
located in low elevations.
The Swallow-tailed Kite loves wooded river swamps. The trees are tall that will provide great nesting grounds. The trees are situated near open grounds where they can have access to abundant food.
Range and Migration
The breeding range of Swallow-tailed Kites extends from the southeastern U.S. to northern Argentina
through eastern Peru. A majority of these birds can be found in the area between Louisiana to
South Carolina in the southern U.S. Swallow-tailed Kites from all regions migrates to South America
Swallow-tailed Kite Life Cycle
The bird has a lifespan of about 6 years. The female lay between 1-3 years and incubate the eggs for 28-31 days. For the first two weeks, the male feeds both the female and the young. The young are nested for 5 weeks when they will be ready to leave the nest.
Swallow-tailed Kite Nesting
Swallow-tailed Kites are seasonally monogamous birds. The courtship between these birds includes
aerial chases between opposite sexes and feeding. These birds breed only once annually. During
breeding season these birds are known to produce a number of calls and shrills. Swallow-tailed
kites construct their nests at the top of tall trees in open woodlands. Both males and females
participate in the nest-building process that requires around 4 days. The nests of these birds are
made up of loosely woven sticks that are lined with moss and lichens. Female Swallow-tailed Kites
lay 1-3 eggs which need to be incubated for 27-33 days.
Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes
At Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.
Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying Swallow-tailed Kites
The most common types of bird watching binoculars for viewing Swallow-tailed Kites are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.
Swallow-tailed Kite T-shirts
If you love the Swallow-tailed Kite you should purchase a Bird Watching Academy & Camp T-shirt. To help support bird conservation we donate 10 percent to bird conservation activities.
Swallow-tailed Kite Iron On Patches
Kids, Youth, and Adults love to collect our Bird Watching Academy & Camp iron-on patches. Our bird-watching patches help you keep track of the birds you have seen and identified. You can also display the patches on our Bird Watching Academy & Camp banners.
The Swallow-tailed Kite is a great iron-on patch to start your collection with. The patches are durable and can be sewn on or ironed on to just about anything.
Swallow-tailed Kite Stickers
Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the Swallow-tailed Kite. We sell a monthly subscription sticker pack. The sticker packs have 12 bird stickers. These sticker packs will help your kids learn new birds every month.
Bird Feeders for Swallow-tailed Kites
There are many types of bird feeders. Here are our favorite bird feeders for your backyard. We use all of these bird feeders currently. Kids will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. Using this collection of bird feeders will provide a wide variety and many types of birds.
Best Bird Houses for Swallow-tailed Kites
There are many types of birdhouses. Building a birdhouse is always fun but can be frustrating. These 4 birdhouses have become our favorites. Getting a birdhouse for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. We spent a little extra money on these birdhouses but they have been worth the higher price and look great.