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Yellow-billed Kite
Milvus parasitus

Status: Lower risk

Population Trend: Declining.

Other Names: Black Kite.

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Milvus parasitus
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Distribution: Afrotropical. Virtually throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, although only a migrant to portions of southern Africa; CAPE VERDE ISLANDS, COMORO ISLANDS, and MADAGASCAR. more....

Subspecies: Monotypic.

Taxonomy: Within the Accipitridae, the genera Milvus and Haliaeetus (sea eagles) cluster together (Wink 1995, Wink et al. 1996) and are in a clade with Buteo and Accipiter (Wink and Seibold 1995). Within the genus, the relationships between the species are still imperfectly understood. Orta (1994) and Stresemann and Amadon (1979) maintained the yellow-billed African breeding populations, aegyptius and parasitus (including tenebrosus) as subspecies of M. migrans, although other recent authors have treated them as a single separate species. Based on molecular studies of mitochondrial genes, Johnson et al. (2005) recently confirmed that at least the resident populations from South Africa and Madagascar should be regarded as a separate species, M. parasitus, and their treatment is followed here. However, they found a surprising level of divergence between samples of parasitus and the northern and central African yellow-billed race, aegyptius, and additional molecular studies are needed to clarify the relationships between these two forms.

Movements: Intra-African migrant. Present in the south during the austral summer and as a non-breeding visitor from populations breeding at lower latitudes (Mendelsohn 1997). Breeders arrive in the eastern portion of southern Africa in August-September, except in the arid west, where they appear about a month later (and where a lower proportion breed) (Mendelsohn op cit.). Most have left the southernmost zones by mid-March and the northern zones by late April. There are also peaks of nomadic movements into southern Africa in December-January, coinciding with a decrease of birds in more northern higher-rainfall areas (Mendelsohn op cit.). The main "wintering" area of birds breeding in southern Africa may be along the southern fringes of the Sahel region. more....

Habitat and Habits: Occurs in a wide variety of habitats, including open areas in general, urban areas, arid habitats, degraded forest, and openings in woodland, often near water, but avoiding dense forest habitats. It is more common in higher rainfall areas, and rural areas with dense human populations. Roosts and nests in woodland, or at forest edges, but may also spend the night on the ground, especially in migration. more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: This species is extremely opportunistic in its feeding habits, and the diet includes small vertebrates, insects (including winged termites), carrion, offal, and dead or dying fish. These kites may pirate prey from other bird species, feed on road kills and village dumps, and attend brushfires and grassland fires, sometimes in large congregations. They spend much of their time in low, searching flight, taking prey in flight, or from the ground. more....

Breeding: Nests are often in loose colonies and the small stick nest is lined with leaves, dung, rags, rope, plastic. bones, and other objects and placed in a tree (Bijlsma et al. 2005). In Mali, all nests were located near water. Clutch size is usually 2 eggs in southern Africa and 3 in West Africa. The eggs are white and marked with brown spots and splotches. All chicks usually survive. West African eggs averaged 50.9 x 39.9 mm (n= 15). The incubation period is about 30 days, and the nestling period is about 48 days (Tarboton 1990). The female handles most of the incubation duties and is fed by the male. more....

Conservation: This is a "gregarious and opportunistic" species (Morris and Hawkins 1998) that is widespread and common throughout its range. Although apparent population declines since the 1990s have been reported from Zambia (Dowsett et al. 2008), populations in other regions have probably increased in response to growing human populations and settlements. Included as a subspecies of M. migrans) by BirdLife International, which categorizes the larger group globally as a species of Least Concern. more....

Population Estimates: BirdLife International does not recognize this form as a separate species, so there are no estimates of its global population size. more....

Important References: 
Brown, L.H., E.K. Urban, and K. Newman. 1982. The birds of Africa. Vol. 1.
  Academic Press, London.
Dean, W.R.J.. 2005. Black Kite and Yellow-billed Kite Milvus migrans. Pp.
  479-481 in P.A.R. Hockey, W.R.J. Dean, and P.G. Ryan (eds.),
  Roberts Birds of Southern Africa. 7th edition. Trustees of the John Voelcker
  Bird Book Fund, Cape Town, South Africa.
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Mendelsohn, J.M. 1997. Yellowbilled Kite. Pp. 166-167 in J.A. Harrison et
  al. (eds.), The atlas of South African birds. Volume 1: Non-passerines.
  BirdLife South Africa and Avian Demography Unit, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Orta, J. 1994. Black Kite. Pp. 118-119 in del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott, and J.
  Sargatal (eds). Handbook of birds of the world. Vol. 2. New World vultures
  to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Steyn, P. 1982. Birds of prey of southern Africa: their identification and
  life histories. David Phillip, Cape Town, South Africa.

Johnson, Jeff A.
Mindell, David
Rondeau, Guy

Last modified: 7/22/2010

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2020. Species account: Yellow-billed Kite Milvus parasitus. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 31 May. 2020

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