Can you clear up this confusion over kites?
Water Rails are omnivorous birds, but seem to favour animals over plants as food. This usually takes the form of worms, leeches or fish, but several of us in the office have
Awitnessed Water Rails spearing rodents or small birds and eating them with gusto. Like most hunting creatures, Water Rails will take an easy meal if it is available, and carrion does feature quite often in their diet, so this behaviour, while not often witnessed, is not at all unusual. This photo was taken in Luxor, Egypt, but is it a Black-winged Kite or a Black-shouldered Kite? Books seem to vary in their name for it. What is your take on it? Geoffrey Smith, Elland, West Yorkshire
QIt’s a Black-winged Kite ( Elanus caeruleus), a raptor found in open land and semi-desert across Africa, parts of Asia, and southern Europe (primarily Spain and Portugal, but it has spread into France). It was formerly combined into a superspecies with the Black-shouldered Kite, an Australian species, and the White-tailed Kite, found in North and South America. Black-shouldered Kite is, confusingly, what Black-winged Kite in Europe was formerly called. As well as its distinctive colouring, it has red irises and long, falcon-like wings, making it relatively easy to tell apart from other raptors within its range. It also has very distinctive habits. The kites can hunt in the fashion of a harrier,
Aquartering the ground at low level, but they also often hover like kestrels in search of their preferred prey – rodents, lizards, grasshoppers, crickets and other large insects, plus frogs, snakes and other birds on occasion. Like kestrels, too, they will also often hunt from perches such as telegraph poles. Interestingly, there are suggestions that this family of kites should be grouped into their own family, because they appear to have split off from typical hawks and eagles even earlier than the Osprey, which is grouped in its own monotypic family.
The Black-winged Kite in Luxor