Australian Bush Birds
Black-shouldered Kite  -  Elanus axillaris
Black-shouldered Kite
Black-shouldered Kite perched on tree at Dirranbandi, southern Queensland.
Black-shouldered Kite Black-shouldered Kite
Left; The black shoulders are obvious in this hovering Black-shouldered kite near Deniliquin, NSW; Right; the dark eyebrow patch extended behind the eye in this Black-shoulder Kite at Dirranbandi, Qld.
map map The Black-shouldered Kite - Elanus axillaris - has a very pale grey body with white head and black shoulder patch. Feet are yellow. Extended black patch close above the eye forms a 'brow'. Underwing is pale with a dark area at the outer part. Black patch prominent on upper surface of the spread wing. Juveniles are spotted brown to golden tan head, neck, breast and back. Grows to 35 to 38 centimetres long, wingspan is 80 to 95 centimetres. In the similar Letter-winged Kite (Elanus scriptus) the 'eye brow' does not extend behind the eye; the Letter-winged Kite also has a full-width underwing dark bar but that forms a broad letter 'w'.

Hunts from perches or by hovering over tall grasses. Perches alone or in family groups in the tops of dead trees. Often hunts at daybreak and dusk when mice are most active. Soars on strongly upcurved wings, with primaries spread, blunt wingtips, tail widely fanned, tip rounded.

Inhabits grassland and farmland high enough to shelter mice and similar prey; as well, on heaths and saltbush with scattered trees.

Common in coastal regions, scarce in semi-arid regions and not found in the most arid parts. Numbers increase after rodent plagues.

Black-shouldered Kite - page 2
Black-shouldered Kite
Black-shouldered Kite searching for prey. The bird is gliding into a strong headwind and does not need to flap wings to maintain position. Note the pale grey underside, the yellow feet tucked up at the back and the dark eye patch. The camera angle allow the dark area under the outer right wing to be seen at the same time as the black patch on the upper surface of the left inner wing. (Coffs Harbour, NSW)

 ¶  Genus Elanus is in Family Accipitridae with other Kites, the Eastern Osprey, Buzzards, Baza, Sea-Eagle, Eagles, Goshawks, Harriers and Sparrowhawk. Some authors regard this species as not separate from overseas speciesElanus leucurus or Elanus caeruleus. But others have found sufficient differences in size, plumage and proportions to justify a separate species.