Bird Families

Black kite: a toiler of the fields or a thieving predator?


Status. 2nd category. A small, widespread species with dwindling numbers.


Africa, Australia, Eurasia from the Atlantic to the Pacific (1). Inhabits the entire Moscow region, but unevenly. Nesting was established in Lotoshinsky, Volokolamsky, Klinsky, Sergiev-Posadsky, Yegoryevsky, Voskresensky, Lukhovitsky, Zaraysky and Mozhaisky districts, it is also assumed in Dmitrovsky, Domodedovsky, Kolomensky, Leninsky, Odintsovsky, Naro-Fominsky and Ruzsky districts. In total, over the past decade, the species was recorded in the nesting season at 120 points in almost all areas of the region (2).

The number and tendencies of its change

In the suburbs until the beginning of the twentieth century. was one of the most numerous birds of prey and accounted for about 30-35% of their total number (3). At the beginning of the twentieth century. the number began to decline, especially rapidly since 1928 (4). By the 1960s. only a few, sporadically distributed pairs have survived (3).

From the late 1960s - early 1970s, as a result of the ban on shooting birds of prey and the creation of reservoirs and fish farms in the region, it again became a fairly common species: in 1981, 22 nesting pairs were counted only on the ponds of seven fish farms (5) ...

A new decline in numbers was noted in the 1990s. (5-7). Currently, the number of the species continues to remain high in the floodplain of the river. Oka in the Lukhovitsky district (6), in the vicinity of the Verkhneruz reservoir (Shakhovsky district) (8) and the Dubnensky swamp massif (Taldomsky district) (9). Nowadays 200-300 pairs nest in the region.

Features of biology and ecology

It nests in trees along the edges of mixed large-stemmed forests, usually close to water bodies. Monogamous appearance. There are usually 2-3 eggs in a clutch, incubation lasts about 30 days, chicks leave the nest about 6 weeks after hatching. Polyphagous, drowsy fish, refuse, carrion prevail in prey (3, 10). It feeds mainly on the shores of water bodies. Migratory view.

Limiting factors

A sharp increase in the disturbance factor and the cutting down of nesting trees near water bodies, a decrease in the abundance of fish, pollution of water bodies, in the last two decades also the degradation of forage biotopes as a result of the cessation of haymaking in floodplain meadows and their overgrowth with tall weeds.

What does a black kite look like

In fact, the plumage of the bird is not entirely black, it is rather dark brown. The body length of the black kite is 48-58 centimeters, with a mass of 800 to 1000 grams.

The wings are 40-50 centimeters long, and in span they are 145-155 centimeters. The main decoration of these predators is their gorgeous tail.

Males and females have plumage of the same color, but males are slightly inferior to females in size. The body is dark brown in color, and the upper part of the head is light. The chest and belly are lighter than the back. The tail is dark brown, the beak is yellow, and its end is black. Legs are yellow.

The black kite is a fighter of harmful insects and rodents.

Where do black kites live?

These birds live in Asia, Europe, Australia and Africa. Black kites are found almost throughout Europe, and in Asia they live in Kazakhstan, eastern regions of China, Mongolia and southern regions of Siberia.

With the onset of cold weather, these birds go to India, Australia and Africa and join the local black kites.

Kite lifestyle and diet

These birds sometimes steal poultry.

These birds are predators, besides omnivorous. Black kites feed on rodents, insects, reptiles and even carrion. Favorite food - chicks of other birds. Black kites also hunt adult birds if they are smaller in size than themselves.

As a habitat, these birds choose places near water bodies, preference is given to flooded meadows. There must be tall trees nearby, especially when it comes to the nesting period. Black kites fly smoothly, slightly bending their wings.

Black kites are very useful for agriculture as they exterminate ground squirrels and harmful insects. But people have a negative attitude towards these predators, as they steal ducklings and chickens.

The black kite is an omnivorous predator.

How is the breeding of offspring in black kites

These birds fly to nesting sites from South Asia and Africa in April, when there is still snow in some places. Black kites can be found not only in wooded areas, but also near settlements. They even fly into small towns.

Black kites lay their eggs either in their nests or in nests abandoned by other birds. Predators equip them, insulate them with grass, paper and feathers. As a rule, black kites arrange their nests in trees, but they can also build them on rocks. The nests are located 10-15 meters above the ground. As a rule, the nests do not exceed 1 meter in diameter. These sizes are very small relative to the size of the bird itself.

Black kite's nest.

Females lay eggs in early May. Clutch, as a rule, consists of 2-4 eggs, but mostly it contains 2-3 eggs, in rare cases their number reaches 5. Eggs are white with brown spots and a slight bluish bloom. The egg is slightly larger than a matchbox.

The incubation period lasts approximately 1.5 months. The female is mainly engaged in incubation, and the male occasionally replaces her. Chicks stay in the nest for 40-45 days, after which they begin to fly. In the 2nd year of life, black kites reach sexual maturity. Life expectancy in the wild is 23-25 ​​years.


Black kites are victims of industrial progress.

The population size in recent years has significantly decreased, while the most serious situation has developed in the European part of Russia, but in other regions the population has declined.

This decrease is explained by the use of pesticides in agricultural activities. For example, in China, a critical content of mercury was found in the bodies of dead black kites. Most likely, mercury enters the natural environment as a result of the chemical industry.

It turns out that human civilization is gradually destroying the once large population, and it is extremely difficult to correct the current situation.

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Security measures taken

The species is listed in Appendix II to the CITES Convention. Listed in the Red Book of Moscow (2001). It has been under special protection in the Moscow region since 1978 (11). In the first edition of the Red Data Book of the Moscow Region (1998) it was included in the list of Appendix 1. In this edition it is included in the main list of the Red Data Book of the Moscow Region. Some nesting groups are located on the territories of reserves of regional significance in Taldomsky, Lotoshinsky, Shakhovsky, Shatursky and Lukhovitsky districts, as well as in the Zavidovo State Complex.

Recommendations for preserving the species in natural conditions

Identification of new places of concentrated nesting of the species with the subsequent organization of protected areas. Tightening the fight against illegal shooting of birds of prey.

Recommended and cited literature

Red Data Book of the Moscow Region 1. Stepanyan, 2003, 2. Database for the program "Birds of Moscow and Moscow Region", 3. Ptushenko, Inozemtsev, 1968, 4. Belyaev, 1938, 5. Mishchenko, 1985. 6. Data of the author of the essay, 7. Zubakin, 2001, 8 I.V. Sokolov, pers. commun., 9. Book of facts of the reserve "Zhuravlinnaya Rodina" (leader), 10. Dementyev, 1951b, 11. Decision of the executive committees ..., 1978. Compiled by A.L. Mishchenko.

Where does the black kite live

Representatives of the type subspecies of the black kite are common and numerous in most of Europe, in Asia they are found up to Pakistan.

The black-eared kite lives east of the Volga, in Siberia, Indochina to the southern regions of China.

In the east of Pakistan, in the tropical forests of India and the island of Sri Lanka, small Indian kites live.

Representatives of another subspecies, whose name translates as "fork-tailed kite" live on the island of Sulawesi, Papua New Guinea and eastern Australia.

And the fifth subspecies, the Taiwanese kite, lives in the Chinese province of Hainan and on the island of Taiwan.

Inhabitants of the European territory spend the winter in Africa, tropical subspecies of the black kite are sedentary.

Throughout their vast range, birds choose similar biotopes: sparse forests near water sources - rivers, lakes or swamps. In such places, you can take excellent photos of a black kite and hear his voice: high melodic trills "yurl-yurrl", and in case of alarm, the often repeated "ki-vi-ki-ki".

Predators avoid open landscapes; they do not exist in dense forests either. But next to settlements these are familiar birds, often black kites are noticed in large cities, where predators have something to profit from.

Black kite, Republic of Altai, Ulagansky district, south of Lake Teletskoye.

What does the black kite eat

Possessing weak legs and beak, these birds belong to the so-called non-specialized gatherers. Therefore, the basis of the diet of the black kite is various kinds of carrion. In the floodplains of rivers, birds pick up a large number of dead fish, often visit garbage dumps, city dumps and the vicinity of slaughterhouses, where they eat various waste.

Live prey is present in the diet of predators to a lesser extent. Black kites catch small rodents, sometimes snakes and frogs, gather crayfish and molluscs in shallow water, hunt worms and insects, and eat chicks and small birds.

During feeding, black kites are tolerant of congeners; large concentrations of birds can be seen in city dumps, where they feed or soar high above the ground. In soaring, the predators keep their wings in the same plane with the body, while the “fingers” are clearly visible - the tops of the flight feathers, strongly expressed, but not spread out.

Black kites soar often and for a long time, sometimes they arrange real air shows with somersaults and difficult maneuvering. Their forked tail helps to steer the birds.

In Europe, the density of the population of predators is so high that in some places black kites cannot settle in their own area. Then the birds are forced to feed on foreign territories and nest in small groups of landless pairs.


Unlike most birds of prey, the black kite often settles in small colonies. Black kites nest in forests, near rivers and swamps. Eggs are laid in late April - early May. In clutch there are up to 4 white eggs with brown spots. The female incubates eggs for a little more than a month, and the male at this time gets her food.

They often decorate their nests with green branches of other trees, flowers, bright rags or bottles, presumably to mark their territory and deter other birds from attacking the nest.


The diet is extremely diverse: various kinds of animal food (small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, crustaceans, insects). It can feed on carrion and garbage.

The average lifespan of a kite is 25 years.