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Black Kite

(Milvus migrans)
Alternate name(s): "Fork-tailed Kite", "Allied Kite", "Kite-Hawk", "Pariah Kite"
Aboriginal name(s): "djillidjilli"

Size: 50-55 cm (male), 55-60 cm (female); wing span 1.2-1.5 m
Weight: Race "affinis" 500-640 g (male), 560-670 g (female)

Similar species

Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Black Kite at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range


Click here for sighting information


Race "affinis"

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Frontal view of an adult Black Kite
[Darwin, NT, August 2014]

Frontal view of a Black Kite (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Near Cunnamulla, QLD, September 2017]

Near-lateral view of a Black Kite (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Near Cunnamulla, QLD, September 2017]

Lateral view of a Black Kite (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Near Cunnamulla, QLD, September 2017]

Lateral view of a moulting Black Kite, giving in particular its tail an unusual appearance; however, note the typical yellow gape and feet (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Ivanhoe Crossing, Kununurra, WA, January 2016]

Close-up view of a Black Kite overhead
[Narrabri, NSW, July 2010]

Lateral view of a Black Kite in flight
[Darwin, NT, August 2014]

Black Kite checking out the photographer
[Darwin, NT, August 2014]

Black Kite looking for prey
[Darwin, NT, August 2014]

Dorsal view of a Black Kite in flight
[Darwin, NT, August 2014]

Black Kite seen from straight underneath
[Narrabri, NSW, February 2012]

Black Kite, here seen at a different angle
[Narrabri, NSW, February 2012]

Black Kite attempting to gain altitude
[Narrabri, NSW, September 2011]

While banking this Black Kite opens up a great view of its plumage in brilliant sunlight
[Narrabri, NSW, September 2011]


Distant near-frontal view of an immature Black Kite (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Gatton, QLD, July 2017]

Immature Black Kite on a fencepost
[Near Burren Junction, NSW, April 2009]

Clear view of the underwing pattern of an immature Black Kite; note also how the legs are hidden by feathers for minimal air resistance
[Near Burren Junction, NSW, April 2009]

View of the upperwing pattern of an immature Black Kite
[Near Burren Junction, NSW, April 2009]

Black Kite seen from straight behind - note the kinked wings and the skewed tip of the tail, both of which are typical of Black Kites
[Near Baan Baa, NSW, 2005]

These immature Black Kites seen at Narrabri Lake are "spillover" from the local rubbish tip
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, June 2012]

Family of soaking wet Black Kites; adult, front right, and juvenile on the left; the bird in the background may also be a juvenile (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Near Cunnamulla, QLD, September 2017]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Jul - Dec Eggs: 2 - 3 Incubation period: ca. 35 days Fledging age: ca. 40 days

The breeding season for Black Kites depends on geographical latitude and weather conditions. In the tropical north, they can breed any time of the year.

Twitcher's tip

Note that, by the time they fledge (i.e., leave their nest), the young of all species of raptors - apart from the tail and wing feathers (which are still growing) - are already full adult-size.


"bungobittah", "malunna" = nest [Aboriginal]

Type: Basket Material: Sticks; leaves, grass, bark, wool lining Height above ground: 10 - 20(?) m

Black Kite nest - possibly a recycled nest of Australian Ravens (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)
[Moree, NSW, February 2014]


"boyanga", "booyanga", "derinya", "dirandil", "koomura", "ngampu", "nooluk", "pateena" = Egg; "dirundirri" = eggs [Aboriginal]; "gawu" = eggs [gamilaraay]

Size: 52 x 42 mm Colour: Creamy, with light- to mid-brown speckles Shape: Tapered oval


Social behaviour: Communal Mobility: Nomadic/dispersive Elementary unit: Flock

Black Kites are the first bird species to re-enter open grassland after a fire, looking for prey that has been killed by the fire. In more vegetated bushland, this role falls to Brown Falcons.

Black Kites are the only species of raptor known to us that will congregate in large numbers. In the Outback, up to 50 were spotted by us together in one flock. Near the rubbish tip in Darwin, NT, we found a flock of about 1000 Black Kites.

Hundreds of Black Kites, both adult and sub-adult, above a rubbish tip (click on photo to see the full frame; there were even more birds around that are not shown on this wide-angle shot); we could not identify a single raptor in this crowd that was not a Black Kite
[Narrabri, NSW, May 2013]

Two of a total of ten Black Kites scavenging at a rubbish tip, which upset the local population of Australian Ravens a bit
[Narrabri, NSW, September 2011]

About half of a huge flock of Black Kites seen near a rubbish tip, where they had been breeding successfully for two seasons in a row
[Narrabri, NSW, August 2012]

Some beaches in the Northern Territory are populated by more Black Kites than humans
[Lee Point beach, Darwin, NT, August 2014]

Some Black Kites were even observed resting on the beach
[Lee Point beach, Darwin, NT, August 2014]

Food, Diet

Adults: Carrion, small mammals, birds Dependents: As adults Water intake: None

All raptors are carnivores. Black Kites mainly feed on carrion. They are often found around rubbish tips. Black Kites have a preference for "deep-fried" prey; they specialize in cleaning up after bushfires.

We have once spotted two Black Kites perched in a dead tree, above a flock of Little Red Flying-foxes (bats), possibly hoping for a juvenile to be lost by its mum (full-grown flying-foxes are too big to be potential prey for Black Kites).

During the first few weeks, raptors feed their chicks with pieces of meat. Later on in their development, the chicks learn to tear apart their parents' prey.

Although blown to smithereens, this roadkill still holds some attraction for a Black Kite (photo courtesy of M. Mearns)
[South of Normanton, QLD, June 2007]

Group of Black Kites hoping to find a deep-fried meal in a paddock after a burnoff
[Near Bourke, NSW, September 2012]


For this species we have recorded the following call(s)/song. The interpretation of their meaning is our own; comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.

blkite_20140820.m4a affinis
(Darwin, NT)
Contact call
(some bkgd artefacts)
© MD

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

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