Can you clear up this con­fu­sion over kites?

Bird Watching (UK) - - Your View -

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

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