This dainty raptor is easily recognized by its bold pattern and flight style. The upperparts are pearly gray with large black epaulets. Females are slightly darker than males. The white tail extends beyond the end of the primaries. The face and underparts are bright white, with a small blackish patch surrounding the red eye. In flight, the black shoulder patches are obvious on the upper surface of the wings. From below, the primaries appear blackish. Small black patches occur on the wrists. The wings are often held in a dihedral. Juveniles are similar to adults, but with a buffy wash over the back, head, and breast.
Length: 38 (cm) Wingspan: 102 (cm)
A rising yelping whistle kreeep, kreeep; and a descending two-syllable kree-errrrrr.
Grassland, wetlands, agricultural fields, oak savannah.
Often hovers when hunting. Outside of the breeding season, forms large communal nocturnal roosts that may include 20+ birds. Roost sites often shared with Northern Harriers and Short-eared Owls.
Feeds on small mammals.
Despite what the descr above suggests, this is among comparatively few raptors in N. Am. whose sexes do not normally appear to be field-distinguishable. Contra info in Sibley, young birds can retain tinges of their first plumage through their first winter. Agitated perched birds (often in colder mos., usu with 2+ present) raise and lower the tail dramatically in an even motion, sometimes accompanied by a wheezy "whip-crack" call. Often among the latest raptors to leave off evening hunting and "head for the shed," departing feeding grounds about the time the first Black-crowned Night-Herons emerge from their roost.
Citation: Personal Experience. I observe this regularly, highly confident.
Expanded Life History
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|David Fix added a note to White-tailed Kite Notes||7/02/2011 at 10:01PM|