|Conservation status||Formerly more widespread in southeast, north as far as Minnesota, but disappeared from many areas in early 20th century. Current population apparently stable.|
|Family||Hawks and Eagles|
|Habitat||Wooded river swamps. Requires tall trees for nesting and nearby open country with abundant prey. In North America found mostly in open pine woods near marsh or prairie, cypress swamps, other riverside swamp forest. In tropics, also found in lowland rain forest and mountain cloud forest.|
Extremely maneuverable in flight. Catches flying insects in the air. Takes much of its food by swooping low over trees or lower growth, picking small creatures from the twigs or leaves without pausing. Young birds of other species are probably taken out of their nests.
2, sometimes 1-3. Creamy white, marked with dark brown. Incubation is by both parents, about 28-31 days. Young: During first week after hatching, young are brooded almost continuously by female. Male brings food to nest, and female feeds it to young. After about 2-3 weeks, female also may hunt and bring food to nest. Young may move about in nest tree after about 5 weeks, first fly at about 5-6 weeks.
During first week after hatching, young are brooded almost continuously by female. Male brings food to nest, and female feeds it to young. After about 2-3 weeks, female also may hunt and bring food to nest. Young may move about in nest tree after about 5 weeks, first fly at about 5-6 weeks.
Insects, frogs, lizards, birds. Adults apparently feed mostly on large insects at most times of year, including dragonflies, wasps, beetles, cicadas, grasshoppers, many others. Especially when feeding young, will capture many frogs, lizards, snakes, nestling birds. In tropics, also eats small fruits.
Courtship may involve aerial chases by both sexes; male may feed female. Nest site is in tall tree in open woodland, usually in pine, sometimes in cypress, cottonwood, or other tree. Typically places nest near top of one of the tallest trees available, more than 60' above ground. Nest (built by both sexes) is platform of small sticks, lined with soft lichens and Spanish moss.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Migration is early in both spring and fall, with Florida birds arriving February-March, departing August-September. Some migrate around Gulf of Mexico but most Florida birds apparently cross Caribbean; their migration is poorly known.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsA shrill klee-klee-klee.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Swallow-tailed Kite
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the Swallow-tailed Kite
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.