Black Kite

Milvus migrans

Black Kite. Photo: Jeff Groves

The Black Kite is a widespread species found throughout the Old World. It is easily recognisable from its long, deeply-forked tail, dark body and flight habits consisting of wide circles interrupted by highly-manoeuvrable side-slipping to catch prey. They are found in large numbers in northern Australia with numbers decreasing towards the south.

Black Kites are omnivorous. They predate all manner of small vertebrates, many types of invertebrates, and will take carrion. Their catholic diet has led them to become commensal with man, and they visit rubbish dumps, piggeries, abattoirs and roads, sometimes in large numbers.

Black Kite. Photo: Jeff Groves


Breeding occurs from July to November in South Australia. The nest is a platform of sticks, within the tree canopy, lined with dry vegetation, wool, fur and sometimes, if near human habitation, rubbish. The clutch is from 1 to 4 eggs. Incubation is by the female with the male bringing food. Breeding can start when the bird is one year old.




The forked tail of Black Kites is the most obvious feature, although it is more apparent when the tail is partly closed. When the tail is widely open the fork is shallow and less obvious. Males and females are alike with females being about 16% larger. The body is dark brown with a pale forehead and throat and black outer primaries. The upperwings have a pale diagonal band while the lower wings and tail are faintly banded. The cere is brown, the eyes brown and the feet yellow. Juveniles are paler with light brown markings on the edges of upperwing coverts. The first down of the chick is white, and this gives way to a pale fawn second down.

Where to find it

Black kites can be found sporadically throughout South Australia, often near human habitation e.g. the Strathalbyn abattoirs. They are scarce in the colder, wetter areas. Black Kites have many races found in their wide distribution. That found in Australia is M. m. affinis (Gould, 1838).