Yellow-billed Kite

Milvus aegyptius

The Yellow-billed Kite spend spring and summer in South Africa, the first birds arriving from central and west Africa in July and the last departing again by April, with the birds being most numerous in December and January. They’ve been recorded from all over South Africa, though they are uncommon in the open and arid central and western parts of the country.

Yellow-billed Kites inhabit a wide range of habitats, from forest edges to grasslands, though they show a preference for woodlands and rural areas with dense human populations. These kites have a varied and opportunistic diet – they prey on a wide variety of birds, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects (especially termites) and other invertebrates, will steal food from other birds and will also scavenge from carcasses and dumpsites. They’re rather fearless, and will even swoop down to steal from picnic tables and barbeques with humans in attendance! They are seen alone, in pairs or in flocks. Adults weigh up to 760g, with a wingspan up to 1.8m.

A large proportion of birds migrating to our country breed here, though it is unclear whether those that don’t breed here are unpaired or from populations that breed elsewhere. Pairs are monogamous and territorial. Nests are well concealed in the canopies of tall trees, and consist of a platform built of sticks and lined with a variety of soft natural and man-made materials. Clutches contain 1-3 eggs, incubated mostly by the female for 5 weeks. For the first month after hatching the male brings food to the female and chicks at the nest, after which she helps to bring food to the chicks. The chicks make their first flight when they are about 7 or 8 weeks old.

Some authorities consider the Yellow-billed Kite to be a race of the Black Kite (Milvus migrans), which also visits our shores in summer and often occurs alongside the Yellow-billed Kite.

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13 thoughts on “Yellow-billed Kite

  1. John

    Very beautiful bird. But as you wrote, it should be seen as a own race, they have not much in common with kites, according to Wikipedia. And the look is different, except the tail, I think. I looks more as a eagle. Great picture as usual! 🙂

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