Black Kite

Milvus migrans


Least Concern

The black kite is the most plentiful raptor (bird of prey) in the world.

This medium-sized raptor appears almost entirely black when viewed from a distance, with a light brown bar on its shoulder. Despite the initial impression, its plumage is actually dark brown, with scattered light brown and rufous markings, particularly on the head, neck, and underparts. The tail, distinctly forked and barred with a deeper shade of brown, contributes to the bird’s alternative name, the fork-tailed kite. With dark brown eyes and black bills, both male and female black kites exhibit similar physical characteristics.

The black kite is found in many habitats including wetlands, river edges, shrub, open grasslands, and woodlands throughout Australia, but prefers warmer regions. Although it is usually seen in small groups, the black kite may form large flocks of many thousands of birds, especially during grasshopper plagues. No other Australian bird of prey is seen in such large flocks.


Black kites are strictly carnivorous. Their endless soaring and agility enable the capture and consumption of prey whilst in flight. They are both predators and scavengers, feeding on a wide variety of small animals, birds, and insects, as well as any available carrion.


The male and female will work together to build a nest and will share the incubation of the eggs, which can take up to 34 days. Black kites nest in isolated pairs and will defend their nests aggressively.

Hatchlings are covered in pale brown down until feathers begin to appear after 18 days. Chicks will take flight at around 50 days and both parents will care for the young.

Black kites can reach a lifespan of up to 28 years in their natural environment. Breeding occurs after their second year.

  • Location

    Dark green indicates where the black kite can be found