Conservation status As a recent arrival in Texas, this kite seems to require nothing more than undisturbed nest sites and a good supply of tree snails. Probably has declined in many parts of tropical range with clearing of woods. Two related forms in West Indies (Cuba, Grenada) are endangered.
Family Hawks and Eagles
Habitat In Texas, found in native deciduous woodland in subtropical zone along lower Rio Grande. Farther south found in various kinds of forest; in Mexico favors deciduous and semi-arid woodlands, but also found in humid tropical forest farther south. High numbers of tree snails may be most important aspect of habitat.
A recent arrival north of the border, this sluggish tropical hawk was first found in southern Texas in 1964, and has been a regular resident there since 1975. May be seen sailing over the trees or sometimes soaring high, but spends much of its time down within the canopy of the woods, where it searches for its staple food of tree snails. Usually in pairs or family groups in Texas, but has been seen in flocks in South America.

Feeding Behavior

Foraging behavior not well known. Apparently forages by climbing and walking about in upper branches of trees, looking for tree snails. On finding a snail, kite holds it against branch with left foot, uses hooked bill to break open shell. This species is remarkably variable in bill size, and smaller-billed birds tend to eat smaller snails.


2, sometimes 3. White, heavily marked with dark brown. Incubation is apparently by both sexes, with incubation period unknown. Young: Probably both parents feed the young. Age at first flight unknown; young may remain with parents for several months.


Probably both parents feed the young. Age at first flight unknown; young may remain with parents for several months.


Mostly tree snails. Aside from snails, reported to eat frogs, salamanders, and insects.


Details of breeding behavior not well known. Courtship display reportedly involves two birds flying in tight circles, diving at each other and calling. In Texas, nesting activity has been noted mostly in May and June. Nest site is in tree, 15-25' above ground. Nest (apparently built by both sexes) is a flimsy platform of sticks.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

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Apparently permanent resident throughout its range; present year-round in southern Texas.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon

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Songs and Calls

Musical whistles; harsh chattering during courtship or when disturbed.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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