The official website of the Elkhorn Slough Foundation and Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve
Elkhorn Slough Birds: White-tailed Kite

Scientific Name:
Elanus leucurus


Found at the Slough:
Grasslands, marshes, agricultural areas.

Season(s) seen:

Did you know...
White-tailed Kites were nearly extinct in California in the 1930s and 1940s.

The white-tailed kite is a medium sized raptor readily identified by its bright plumage and its habit of hovering while hunting. It is distinguished from other raptors by its long, narrow, pointed wings, white face and underside and black spot on inner portion of wings.

White-tailed Kites have a similar hunting strategy and prey preference as the American Kestrel, another raptor found at the slough.   Their diet includes small mammals such as mice and voles; occasionally will hunt birds, reptiles and amphibians.

The White-tailed Kite is native to the West Coast and Gulf Coast of the United States into Central American and eastern South America. At the Elkhorn Slough Reserve it is found year round and commonly seen in the oaks below the Visitor Center from the overlook, and along the South Marsh and Long Valley Loop trails.

The White-tailed Kite became nearly extinct in California in the 1930s and 1940s by shooting and egg-collecting, but they are now common again. Although their distribution is patchy, on a global scale they are not considered threatened species by the IUCN.

The volunteer observers at the slough, who track the breeding activities of all of the raptors, report that unlike other raptor nests, finding the exact location of White-tailed Kites nests is quite challenging. Regular surveys are conducted by a team of volunteers to document breeding activities. Find out more about raptor monitoring at the slough.


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This site is maintained by the Elkhorn Slough Foundation in partnership with the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve