Also referred to as Elanus axillaris, the Black-shouldered kite appears as a small raptor belonging to family Accipitridae stretching to 35cm in length along with a wingspan of 80–100 cm as always explored on Uganda birding safaris.
It is grey and white raptor marked with a black shoulder. It has bluish grey upper parts and black wing coverts while the underparts are white. The Black-shouldered Kite features a black mask around the eye and a short sharp bill with hooked upper mandible. The cere, legs and feet are bright yellow as viewed by travelers on birding safari in Uganda. The adult birds have dark red eyes while the immature birds have brownish orange.
The black-shouldered kite is dominantly a silent bird apart from the breeding season when its weak call is heard persistently. The feed mainly on mice along with rats, grasshoppers, birds, small reptiles and on minor occasions rabbits. Hunting is done in the afternoon especially at dawn and at dusk. While hunting, the kite hovers in the air with the body hanging closely vertically with the head into the wind from where it drops silently upon spotting prey. The prey is seized in the talons and can be consumed in the flight or at the perch. These are some of the interesting photographic moments enjoyed by Uganda safari tour undertakers.
The nest is constructed by both male and female birds and is a small stick platform with about 30m diameter lined with grass.
Regarding breeding, the Black-shouldered Kite is a monogamous bird and selects the mate based on territory. Breeding is done throughout the year and high in the dry season. A clutch of 2 – 6 eggs are laid and incubation is done by females lasting between 26 – 33 days. Caring is done by the mother as the male looks for food. The chicks leave their nest between 4 – 70 days after hatching. Such interesting facts from the centerpiece of the bird species interpretation while on birding safaris in Uganda.
Regarding Conservation, the Black-shouldered kite is listed as species of Least Concern on the red list of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
By Siima Simon Peter