Birds – Black-winged Kite

The best known Old World species is the Black-winged Kite (E. coeruleus), a much smaller bird than the last, being only a little more than thirteen inches long. It is ash-gray above, lighter on the head, and pure white below, a ring about the eyes and the lesser and middle wing-coverts black, while the tail is whitish on the upper side. It is further distinguished by having the cere, orbits, and feet yellow, the bill black and the irides carmine-red. This species ranges from southeastern Europe through Africa and India, being especially abundant in Egypt and many parts of India. They are described as bold, fearless birds, unconcernedly permitting a near approach of man, and often to be seen sitting on telegraph wires and the summits of tall trees. They are apparently somewhat gregarious, for Sharpe speaks of having seen in South Africa as many as nine in the branches of one tree. They utter, especially on the wing, a frequent and very piercing cry, and when in flight they are given to hovering over grass after the well-known manner of the Kestrel, the wings being held upward so that the tips are within three or four inches of each other while the feet and tail hang downward. They hold themselves for a few moments in this position as they slowly descend to within a few feet of the ground, when they drop suddenly. Their food consists largely of insects, but they also take small reptiles and birds when occasion presents. They build a large nest in low bushes or in the forks of a tree, and line it carefully with feathers and moss. In India it appears that two broods are reared in a year, although in other parts of their range it is doubtful if this condition prevails. The eggs are two or three in number, with a white or bluish white ground and irregular streaks and blotches of yellowish brown.