Elanus leucurus - (Vieillot, 1818)
White-tailed Kite
Other English Common Names: white-tailed kite
Other Common Names: Gavião-Peneira
Synonym(s): Elanus caeruleus
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Elanus caeruleus (Desfontaines, 1789) (TSN 175284) ;Elanus leucurus (Vieillot, 1818) (TSN 175282)
French Common Names: Élanion à queue blanche
Spanish Common Names: Milano Cola Blanca, Gavilán Blanco, Taguato Morotî
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.105756
Element Code: ABNKC06010
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Birds - Other Birds
Image 11591

© Larry Master

 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Aves Accipitriformes Accipitridae Elanus
Genus Size: B - Very small genus (2-5 species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1998. Check-list of North American birds. Seventh edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. [as modified by subsequent supplements and corrections published in The Auk]. Also available online: http://www.aou.org/.
Concept Reference Code: B98AOU01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Elanus leucurus
Taxonomic Comments: Constitutes a superspecies with E. caeruleus and E. axillaris (AOU 1998); the three species were treated as conspecific by (AOU 1983). Sibley and Monroe (1990) regarded the three taxa as distinct species. Clark and Banks (1992) emphasized that American elanus differs from Old World kites in greater size and weight, in proportions (relatively longer tail and small bill and feet), plumage pattern (particularly of juveniles), and in behavior; they argued that these differences are sufficient to warrant recognition of E. leucurus as a distinct species.
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 22Nov1996
Global Status Last Changed: 22Nov1996
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Nation: United States
National Status: N4 (05Jan1997)
Nation: Canada
National Status: NNA (04Jan2018)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Arizona (S2B,S2S3N), California (S3S4), Florida (S1), Louisiana (S1B,S1S2N), Mississippi (SNA), New Mexico (S2N), Oregon (S3), Texas (S4B), Washington (S2)

Other Statuses

IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species Protection Status (CITES): Appendix II

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: >2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: RESIDENT: locally from southwestern Washington south to northwestern Baja California (mainly in Central Valley of California), in Florida (small resident population), and from southern Texas south through Mexico to South America (northern Colombia to Guianas, eastern Brazil through Paraguay, northern Argentina, and Chile; Ridgely et al. 1989); recent breeding in Arizona, Oklahoma, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi; numerous recent occurrences throughout the southern U.S.

Long-term Trend:  
Long-term Trend Comments: In the U.S., was nearly extinct by 1930 or earlier; has since reoccupied former principal range and expanded in Middle America; breeding was recorded in Oregon in 1977 and in Washington in the 1980s. See Palmer (1988) for a review of status and literature citations for various areas. See Gatz et al. (1988) for a discussion of status and range expansion in the southestern U.S. in the 1970s and 1980s. See also Pruett-Jones (1980).

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) RESIDENT: locally from southwestern Washington south to northwestern Baja California (mainly in Central Valley of California), in Florida (small resident population), and from southern Texas south through Mexico to South America (northern Colombia to Guianas, eastern Brazil through Paraguay, northern Argentina, and Chile; Ridgely et al. 1989); recent breeding in Arizona, Oklahoma, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi; numerous recent occurrences throughout the southern U.S.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The maps for birds represent the breeding status by state and province. In some jurisdictions, the subnational statuses for common species have not been assessed and the status is shown as not-assessed (SNR). In some jurisdictions, the subnational status refers to the status as a non-breeder; these errors will be corrected in future versions of these maps. A species is not shown in a jurisdiction if it is not known to breed in the jurisdiction or if it occurs only accidentally or casually in the jurisdiction. Thus, the species may occur in a jurisdiction as a seasonal non-breeding resident or as a migratory transient but this will not be indicated on these maps. See other maps on this web site that depict the Western Hemisphere ranges of these species at all seasons of the year.
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AZ, CA, FL, LA, MS, NM, OR, TX, WA

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: NatureServe, 2002; WWF-US, 2000


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
AZ Cochise (04003), La Paz (04012)
CA Alameda (06001), Colusa (06011)*, Contra Costa (06013), Del Norte (06015)*, El Dorado (06017), Humboldt (06023), Kern (06029), Los Angeles (06037), Marin (06041)*, Mendocino (06045), Monterey (06053), Napa (06055), Orange (06059), Placer (06061), Riverside (06065), Sacramento (06067), San Benito (06069), San Bernardino (06071), San Diego (06073), San Joaquin (06077), San Luis Obispo (06079), San Mateo (06081)*, Santa Barbara (06083), Santa Clara (06085), Santa Cruz (06087), Solano (06095), Sonoma (06097), Tehama (06103), Ventura (06111), Yolo (06113), Yuba (06115)
FL Broward (12011), Miami-Dade (12086), Osceola (12097), Palm Beach (12099)
OR Lane (41039)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
03 Kissimmee (03090101)+, Everglades (03090202)+, Florida Southeast Coast (03090206)+
15 Upper San Pedro (15050202)+, Centennial Wash (15070104)+
17 Upper Willamette (17090003)+
18 Smith (18010101)+*, Mad-Redwood (18010102)+, Big-Navarro-Garcia (18010108)+, Russian (18010110)+, Sacramento-Stone Corral (18020104)+*, Lower American (18020111)+, Thomes Creek-Sacramento River (18020156)+, Honcut Headwaters-Lower Feather (18020159)+, Upper Coon-Upper Auburn (18020161)+, Upper Putah (18020162)+, Lower Sacramento (18020163)+, Middle Kern-Upper Tehachapi- (18030003)+, San Joaquin Delta (18040003)+, Upper Mokelumne (18040012)+, Upper Cosumnes (18040013)+, Rock Creek-French Camp Slough (18040051)+, Suisun Bay (18050001)+, San Pablo Bay (18050002)+, Coyote (18050003)+, San Francisco Bay (18050004)+, San Lorenzo-Soquel (18060001)+, Pajaro (18060002)+, Salinas (18060005)+, Central Coastal (18060006)+, Alisal-Elkhorn Sloughs (18060011)+, Santa Barbara Coastal (18060013)+, Santa Clara (18070102)+, Calleguas (18070103)+, San Jacinto (18070202)+, Santa Ana (18070203)+, Newport Bay (18070204)+, Aliso-San Onofre (18070301)+, Santa Margarita (18070302)+, San Luis Rey-Escondido (18070303)+, San Diego (18070304)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Reproduction Comments: Female incubates usually 4-5 eggs for about 30-32 days; male provides food. Young leave nest in 30-35 days (or more). Sometimes two broods/year. Some may breed at one year (Palmer 1988).
Ecology Comments: In southern California, communal roosting occurs in fall-winter; location of roost may shift during that period.

In northwestern California, 26 territories ranged from 1.6-21.5 ha (mean 7.8 ha); territories were largest in areas where vole density and total raptor abundance were relatively low (Dunk and Cooper 1994).

Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: Tends to move seasonally but evidence of actual migration is lacking (Palmer 1988).
Palustrine Habitat(s): HERBACEOUS WETLAND, Riparian
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Cropland/hedgerow, Grassland/herbaceous, Savanna, Woodland - Hardwood
Habitat Comments: Savanna, open woodland, marshes, partially cleared lands and cultivated fields, mostly in lowland situations (Tropical to Temperate zones) (AOU 1983).

Nests in trees, often near a marsh, usually 6-15 m above the ground in branches near the top of a tree. Generally builds a new nest for each clutch (Palmer 1988).

Adult Food Habits: Carnivore
Immature Food Habits: Carnivore
Food Comments: Diet in the U.S. is almost exclusively voles and mice (MICROTUS, MUS, REITHRODONTOMYS); pocket gopher sometimes is a secondary item. See Palmer (1988) for a brief review of foods elsewhere.
Adult Phenology: Diurnal
Immature Phenology: Diurnal
Phenology Comments: In southern California, arrived at communal roost generally between sunset and dark; activity begins early in morning (see Palmer 1988). Hunts mostly in early morning and late afternoon (Panama, Ridgely et al. 1989).
Length: 41 centimeters
Weight: 350 grams
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Hawks and Falcons

Use Class: Breeding
Subtype(s): Feeding Area, Nest Site
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of historical breeding, or current and likely recurring breeding, at a given location, minimally a reliable observation of one or more breeding pairs in appropriate habitat. Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single breeding events outside the normal breeding distribution.
Mapping Guidance: If nest site is separated from feeding area by more than 100 meters, map as separate polygons.
Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance a compromise between usually relatively small home ranges and obvious mobility of these birds. Home ranges variable, ranging from about 0.5 to about 90 square kilometers; the latter figure refers to nests where birds commuted some distance to feeding grounds. A number of studies give mean home ranges on the order of 7 square kilometers, which equates to a circle with a diameter of about 3 kilometers; three times that home range gives a separation distance of about 10 kilometers. Home ranges: Ferruginous Hawk, mean 5.9 square kilometers in Utah (Smith and Murphy 1973); range 2.4 to 21.7 square kilometers, mean 7.0 square kilometers in Idaho (Olendorff 1993); mean 7.6 square kilometers in Idaho (McAnnis 1990); mean 90 square kilometers in Washington (Leary et al. 1998); Red-tailed Hawk, most forage within 3 kilometers of nest (Kochert 1986); mean spring and summer male home ranges 148 hectares (Petersen 1979); Hawaiian Hawk, 48 to 608 hectares (n = 16; Clarkson and Laniawe 2000); Zone-tailed Hawk, little information, apparent home range 1-2 kilometers/pair in west Texas (Johnson et al. 2000); White tailed Kite, rarely hunts more than 0.8 kilometers from nest (Hawbecker 1942); Prairie Falcon, 26 square kilometers in Wyoming (Craighead and Craighead 1956), 59 to 314 square kilometers (reported by Steenhof 1998); Aplomado Falcon, 2.6 to 9.0 square kilometers (n = 5, Hector 1988), 3.3 to 21.4 square kilometers (n = 10, Montoya et al. 1997). Nest site fidelity: high in Zone-tailed Hawk; all seven west Texas nesting territories occupied in 1975 were reused in 1976 (Matteson and Riley 1981). Swainson's Hawk: In California, dispersal distances from natal sites to subsequent breeding sites ranged from 0 to 18 kilometers, mean 8.8 kilometers (Woodbridge et al. 1995); in contrast, none of 697 nestlings in Saskatchewan returned to the study area; three were found 190, 200 and 310 kilometers away (Houston and Schmutz 1995).
Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): 3 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: Foraging range variable; 3 kilometers is the mean diameter in several species.
Date: 13Mar2001
Author: Cannings, S.

Use Class: Nonbreeding
Subtype(s): Foraging area, Roosting area
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of recurring presence of wintering birds (including historical); and potential recurring presence at a given location, usually minimally a reliable observation of 5 birds (this can be reduced to 1 individual for rarer species). Occurrences should be locations where the species is resident for some time during the appropriate season; it is preferable to have observations documenting presence over at least 20 days annually. Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single events.
Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance somewhat arbitrary; set at 10 kilometers to define occurrences of managable size for conservation purposes. However, occurrences defined primarily on the basis of areas supporting concentrations of foraging birds, rather than on the basis of distinct populations.
Date: 15Apr2002
Author: Cannings, S.
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 13Jan1995
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
Help
  • Allen, C. R., S. Demarais, and R. S. Lutz. 1994. Red imported fire ant impact on wildlife: an overview. The Texas Journal of Science 46(1):51-59.

  • American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1983. Check-list of North American Birds, 6th edition. Allen Press, Inc., Lawrence, Kansas. 877 pp.

  • American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1998. Check-list of North American birds. Seventh edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. [as modified by subsequent supplements and corrections published in The Auk]. Also available online: http://www.aou.org/.

  • BirdLife International. 2004b. Threatened birds of the world 2004. CD ROM. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.

  • Braun, M. J., D. W. Finch, M. B. Robbins, and B. K. Schmidt. 2000. A field checklist of the birds of Guyana. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

  • Campbell, R. W., N. K. Dawe, I. McTaggart-Cowan, J. M. Cooper, G. W. Kaiser, A. C. Stewart, and M. C. E. McNall. 2001. The birds of British Columbia. Volume 4. Passerines: wood-warblers through Old World sparrows. University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver. 739 pages.

  • Clark, W. S., and R. C. Banks. 1992. The taxonomic status of the white-tailed kite. Wilson Bull. 104:571-579.

  • Clarkson, K. E. and L. P. Laniawe. 2000. Hawaiian Hawk, Buteo solitarius. In A. Poole and F. Gill, editors. The Birds of North America. No. 523. The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA. 16 pp.

  • Craighead, J. J., and F. C. Craighead, Jr. 1956. Hawks, Owls and Wildlife. The Stackpole Company, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and the Wildlife Management Institute, Washington, D.C.

  • Curnutt, J. L. 1989. Nesting of the black-shouldered kite (ELANUS CAERULEUS) in Everglades National Park. Florida Field Nat. 17:77-79.

  • Dunk, J. R., and R. J. Cooper. 1994. Territory-size regulation in black-shouldered kites. Auk 111:588-595.

  • England, A. S., M. J. Bechard, and C. S. Houston. 1997. Swainson's Hawk (Buteo swainsoni). No. 265 IN A. Poole and F. Gill, editors, The birds of North America. The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, DC. 28pp.

  • Gatz, T. A., et al. 1988. Black-shouldered kite. Pages 48-53 in Glinski et al., eds. Proc. Southwest Raptor Manage. Symp. and Workshop. National Wildlife Federation Sci. and Tech. Ser. No. 11.

  • Hawbecker, A. C. 1942. A life history study of the white-tailed kite. Condor 44:267-276.

  • Hector, D. P. 1988b. Aplomado Falcon (Falco femoralis). Pages 315-322 in R. S. Palmer, editor, Handbook of North American birds. Vol. 5: Family Accipitridae, Family Falconidae. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut.

  • Houston, C. S., and J. K. Schmutz. 1995. Swainson's Hawk banding in North America to 1992. North American Bird Bander 20:120-127.

  • Howell, S. N. G., and S. Webb. 1995. A guide to the birds of Mexico and northern Central America. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

  • Johnsgard, P. A. 1990. Hawks, eagles, and falcons of North America. Smithsonian Inst. Press, Washington, D.C. xvi + 403 pp.

  • Johnson, R. R., R. L. Glinski, and S. W. Matteson. 2000. Zone-tailed Hawk (Buteo albonotatus). No. 529 IN A. Poole and F. Gill, editors, The birds of North America. The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA. 20pp.

  • Kochert, M. N. 1986. Raptors. pages 313-349 IN: A. Y. Cooperrider, R. J. Boyd, and H. R. Stuart, editors. Inventory and monitoring of wildlife habitat. Denver, CO: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Denver Service Center.

  • Leary, A. W., R. Mazaika, and M. J. Bechard. 1998. Factors affecting the size of Ferruginous Hawk home ranges. Wilson Bulletin 110:198-205.

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  • Matteson, S. W., and J. O. Riley. 1981. Distribution and nesting success of Zone-tailed Hawks in west Texas. Wilson Bulletin 107:719-723.

  • Montoya, A.B., P.J. Zwank, and M. Cardenas. 1997. Breeding biology of Aplomado Falcons in desert grasslands of Chihuahua, Mexico. Journal of Field Ornithology 68(1):135-143.

  • Olendorff, R. R. 1993. Status, biology, and management of Ferruginous Hawks: a review. Raptor Res. and Tech. Asst. Cen., Special Report. U.S. Dept. Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Boise, Idaho. 84 pp.

  • Palmer, R. S., editor. 1988a. Handbook of North American birds. Vol. 4. [Diurnal raptors, part 1]. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT. vii + 433 pp.

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  • Pruett-Jones, S. G., M. Pruett-Jones, and R. L. Knight. 1980. The white-tailed kite in North and Middle America: current status and recent population changes. Am. Birds 34:682-688.

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  • Ridgely, R. S. and J. A. Gwynne, Jr. 1989. A Guide to the Birds of Panama. 2nd edition. Princeton University Press, Princeton, USA.

  • Ridgely, R. S., and J. A. Gwynne, Jr. 1989. A guide to the birds of Panama with Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras. Second edition. Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, New Jersey. 534 pp.

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  • Sibley, C.G., and B.L. Monroe, Jr. 1990. Distribution and Taxonomy of Birds of the World. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT. xxiv + 1111 pp.

  • Sibley, D. A. 2000a. The Sibley guide to birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

  • Smith, D. G., and J. R. Murphy. 1973. Breeding ecology of raptors in the eastern Great Basin of Utah. Brigham Young University Science Bulletin, Biol. Ser. 13:1-76.

  • Steenhof, K. 1998. Prairie Falcon (Falco mexicanus). In A. Poole and F. Gill, editors, The Birds of North America, No. 346. The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA. 28 pp.

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