White-Tailed Kite

White-tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus)

Formerly known as the “black-shouldered kite,” the white-tailed kite can be readily identified by its white plumage, red eyes, and its hovering behavior while hunting.

They can be found year-round in distinct population patches that include western California and Oregon, southern Texas, and much of coastal and central Mexico. Once faced with extinction in California due to sport shooting and egg-collecting, federal protection has allowed this species to recover in the decades since the 1940s. Now, our state hosts one of the highest populations of white-tailed kites in North America.

You can find these raptors in lower elevation habitats with open fields, where their main prey species—voles and mice—are in abundance. Avoiding the use of rodenticide in and around our homes can help this unique raptor thrive.

In 2017, Lindsay Wildlife acquired a white-tailed kite—this was the first time in our 62-year history that this species had ever been at Lindsay! This white-tailed kite originally came to our Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital as a nestling patient. After a brief stay, it was released back into the wild. However, a rescuer brought the kite back to Lindsay two months later after seeing it fly into a building window. The neurological injury from the impact, coupled with the bird’s unusually docile behavior around people, rendered this kite non-releasable. Nevertheless, it makes an absolutely perfect animal ambassador for its species here at Lindsay.  You can help prevent bird collisions on your own windows by installing bug screens or hanging decals!

As Lindsay’s kite matures, it will transform into all white and its eyes will turn red—the common look for white-tailed kites. Come hear it “vocalizing” at Lindsay, as kites tend to have a rather shrill call, sometimes called “grading,” but we call “BEAUTIFUL!”