Species profile

Black-shouldered Kite

Black-shouldered Kite

Range and abundance

The Black-shouldered Kite occurs throughout Australia, and is relatively abundant across most of its range except in the arid interior. 


An adult bird is 33-37 cm in length, with males around 250 g and females 300 g. Black-shouldered Kites have grey back and wings, a pure white head and underparts, and a black shoulder patch. Adults have red eyes and a dark shadow above the eye, while juveniles have dark eyes and a rufous tinge to plumage on the head, breast and back.


The Black-shouldered Kite is a solitary or gregarious diurnal hawk of open woodlands, grasslands, heaths and saltbush. It can often be seen perching on the tops of dead trees, poles and wires, or hovering over prey. It mainly eats small rodents such as mice, but also occasionally takes small birds, lizards and insects.

Breeding can occur throughout the year, but is most common in autumn and spring. Nests are a platform of sticks 27-45 cm across, lined with green leaves, bark or fur, usually hidden in the canopy of a living tree, or occasionally an artificial structure. Three to four eggs are laid, and hatch after a month. Juvenile birds are dependent for a month and then often disperse widely (up to 1000 km). Numbers of the Black-shouldered Kite can increase rapidly in response to plagues of house mice in agricultural areas.


The Black-shouldered Kite is not threatened. It has increased in numbers in cleared and farmland areas in southern Australia in response to the opening up of forests and the introduction of the house mouse.

What is AWC doing?

AWC protects the Black-shouldered Kite within its natural habitat across most of its sanctuaries. 

Did you know:

The Black-shouldered Kite is accomplished at hovering. It hovers with legs lowered and tail depressed, and drops feet-first onto its prey with wings raised high. Occasionally it hunts by dropping straight from a perch onto its prey on the ground.