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Pictures & write-ups on the Kite

Some clarification on the use of certain terms.

 Raptors or raptorial birds, quote - "warm-blooded egg-laying vertebrates characterized by feathers and forelimbs modified as wings."

In another way of addressing the same subject, Accipiter are hawks that visit deeply wooded areas. The birds generally has short rounded wings and long rudder like tails, to assist them in maneuver between foliages.

For the Malaysian Bird list, I have grouped all these Accipiters as one under this family heading. The birds included  are:-

1 Osprey 1 Besra
1 Hawk 1 Honey Buzzard
1 Griffons 2 Vultures
2 Goshawks 2 Sparrowhawks
6 Eagles 2 Serpent-Eagles
3Sea/Fish eagles 4 Hawk-Eagles
2 Baza 3 Buzzards
4 Harriers 3 Kites

Noting the members of this large group of Accipiters, for the 3 Kites that we get to see in Malaysia, I have put up a dedicated page to focus on this special birds

Black-winged Kite Elanus caeruleus
Black Kite Milvus migrans
Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus


The Kite has the looks of a small hawks. It is lightly built with a small head, long narrow wings, and a forked tail. The bird has a reputation for hovering in the sky, yes the one you saw before.

So for coining of the word "Kite". Like all hawks, the kite too has a reputation as a predator. Rumored that in the 16th century, a person who preys on others in any way has been called a kite.

The same name then applied in the 17th century to a toy whose use seemed to imitate or suggest that behavior. The toy too has a light frame covered usually with paper or cloth, provided with a balancing tail, and designed to be flown in the air at the end of a long string. The toy was called "kite", just like the hovering bird of prey. Now you know that the "play thing" is named after the bird.

In flight, the bird is known for its hypnotic hovering. It slowly flaps its long wings and then glides on and on with its wings angled back. This page is about Kites. IN Malaysia we could easily see these 3 species.



Black Kite  Milvus migrans


Size & diagnostic markings:- 58 Cm. The Black Kite is a migratory bird. Seen only when the winter season comes. Cannot miss them as there would be a few of them together. Not shy of human taking their time to perch and hover slowly at low level. Those I met with seem to give an impression they gather and roost as a flock of 5-8 birds. The upper part is dull brown. The under part has heavy but faint streaks. Diagnostic would the long tail with a shallow fork.
Distribution :-  This Kite has its origin in wide ranging area stretching from the Middle East, Indian sub-continent and Australia.  The bird is a visitor to the coastal areas of Malaysia.
Habitats & preferences:- In Southern Thailand and Malaysia, this bird prefers mangrove forest and is therefore a lowland forest bird.
In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- There is another larger sub-species and I had pictures of them came from a variety of location from Kedah in the north to Kuala Selangor in Central peninsula.
Record of bird's call :-    and Video:-

Black Kite # 1

Black Kite  # 2

Black Kite  # 3

Black Kite  # 4

Black Kite  # 5

Black Kite  # 6


Black Kite  # 7

Black Kite  # 8

Black Kite  # 9

Black Kite  # 10

Black Kite  # 11

Black Kite  # 12

Black Kite  # 16

juvenile Black Kite  # 17

juvenile  Black Kite  # 18

 My personal jottings of the Black Kite:-

-Seen at the estuary or at the mangrove forest. Again the same situation of the Kite gathering when the padi fields are near the coast. I could see that the Black Kite too prefers this open country more than the mangrove forest. I had the chance to approach them rather close. Most of my pictures were taken in Jeram, Tanjong Karang and Air Itam Dalam in Penang, Those I saw in Kuala Gula were rather far inland away from the waterways.


Black-winged Kite  Elanus caeruleus


Size & diagnostic markings:- 38 Cm. The Black-winged Kite is rather common in the coastal areas. Seen in variety of sizes, individually and very often. Unique about this bird is its habit of hovering in a stationary position in the air for an extended period of time.
Distribution :-  This bird is native in Africa, South west Europe, then east to the Indian Sub-continent, south China and then down south to Sulawesi and the the Philippines.
Habitats & preferences:- This bird is lowland and also an open country bird, seen often in palm Oil estates. But in Malaysia seen more often as coastal bird.
In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- Best places would be palm Oil estates near the coastal areas. More often in Central peninsula.
Record of bird's call :-    and Video:-

Black-winged Kite # 1

Black-winged Kite  # 2

Black-winged Kite  # 3

Black-winged Kite  # 4

Black-winged Kite  # 5

Black-winged Kite  # 6

Black-winged Kite # 7

Black-winged Kite  # 8

Black-winged Kite  # 9

Black-winged Kite  # 10

Black-winged Kite  # 11

Black-winged Kite  # 12

Black-winged Kite # 16

Black-winged Kite  # 17

Black-winged Kite  # 18

 My personal jottings of the Black-winged Kite:

Elanus caeruleus - That's the scientific name given to this bird. Recently the Black-winged Kite of Europe and Africa were collectively called "Black-shouldered Kite". More recently it was argued that the White-tailed Kite differed from the Old World species in size, shape, plumage, and behavior, and that these differences were sufficient to warrant its own status. This argument was accepted by the American Ornithologists' Union, so the White-tailed Kite has its original name back. Finally the E. caeruleus is again called Black-winged Kite.

The name of Black-shouldered Kite is now reserved for an Australian species, Elanus axillaris, which had also been lumped into E. caeruleus but now regarded as separate again. For us it is now the Black-winged Kite.

The Black-winged Kite is more a coastal bird though also seen often in open country. It is a very common bird in rice fields [open country] if these fields are also close the sea coast. Spotting them then is a very easy task.



Brahminy Kite  Haliastur indus intermedius


Size & diagnostic markings:- 52 Cm. This Brahminy though mainly coastal is seen very often inland. In fact this is the most commonly seen "Eagle" in urban areas. Of course it has not reason to come down low and almost all times high in the sky. But in the coast, it is perched low and flying almost overhead. Upper part is a bright reddish brown with a prominent white head. Under part, from the breast to the forward part of the belly in white filled with fine dark streaks
Distribution :- This bird has its origin from the Indian Sub-continent, Southern China, Sundas and the Philippines. But now such a common bird in Malaysia. .
Habitats & preferences:- In Southern Thailand and Malaysia, this bird prefers mangrove forest and is therefore a lowland forest bird. Also hanging around inland areas with large ponds or lakes.
In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- There are is a family living in Petaling Jaya, seen almost daily and also could hear their calls though soft.
Record of bird's call :-    and Video:-

Brahminy Kite# 1

Brahminy Kite  # 2

Brahminy Kite  # 3

Brahminy Kite  # 4

Brahminy Kite  # 5

Brahminy Kite # 6

Brahminy Kite# 7

juvenile Brahminy  # 8

Brahminy Kite  # 9

juvenile Brahminy  # 10

juvenile Brahminy  # 11

juvenile Brahminy # 12

Brahminy Kite# 16

Brahminy Kite  # 17

Brahminy Kite  # 18

 My personal jottings of the Brahminy Kite:-

Perhaps the most seen "eagle" in our urban skies is this Brahminy Kite. The size of bird when maturing measures from 44 cm to 52 cm. Started off as  a coastal bird and still is, but making noticeable presence in public parks in inland areas. have seen them breeding a few seasons in the Rimba Kiara.

A new tourist attraction would be to get the whole colony of Kites together during feeding time. This is a standard program in Langkawi and lately started in Kuala Sepetang and well as Kuala Selangor.



The Black Kite is the only bird within this group that is hardly seen, whereas the other two Kites are fairly common. Most locals with little interest in birds would not know of the classifications and background. They won't find them interesting as they are always so high up in the sky or Casuarinas when perched. I find that the Kites are good subjects to photograph as each of them has that distinctive looks particularly in flight.