White-tailed Kites: An essay in photos


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here on the West Coast of the United States we only have one type of Kite that we see with any regularity- the White-tailed Kite. A small raptor with a hint of elegance about its fluid, sweeping wing beats, this bird is as blood thirsty as any hawk or eagle, it merely goes about its hunting in a more stately manner.

A Kite that is "kiting"

Kites often hunt by flapping their wings in such a pattern they they stay in one spot relative to the ground. It is akin to siting in a tall tree and studying the ground for movement, except they are airborne with none of the branches of the tree to block the view. This method is termed “hovering,” however it is so common to see Kites engaging in this behavior that in many areas it has become known as “kiting.” I know that I learned this term long before I learned any other, and if I saw a Red-tailed Hawk or Kestrel hunting in a similar fashion, I would use the same word for these very different birds.

Once prey has been sighted a White-tailed Kite begins a descent where they almost appear to be parachuting, with the wings trailing behind

For a while people tried to change the name to the Black-shouldered Kite. The name however did not stick, and it is still most often known as “White-tailed.”

The black shoulders of the White-tailed Kite are rather distinct

They are an easier raptor to learn, because of their coloring and their flight style. Nothing else moves quite like them in the air.

Their red eyes captivate me

If you are lucky enough to see one at close range, try to notice their eyes. A very striking color.

You can just notice the black on the shoulders when you view them head on

About Galen Leeds Photography

Nature and wildlife photographer, exploring the world on his feet and from his kayak. Among other genres, he is one of the leading kayak photographers in Northern California. To learn more about him, visit him on his website- www.galenleeds.net
This entry was posted in birds, nature photography, Photo Essay, raptors, wildlife photography and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to White-tailed Kites: An essay in photos

  1. Victor Ho says:

    Great shots. I’m very impressed with your birds in flight. The shot with the kite’s head turned to the left is really special.

  2. Max Reynolds says:

    Loved these photos and have seen these raptors in action. They are impressive. Thank you for sharing them.


  3. Mary says:

    Great photos! I love the one taken head on! It’s amazing!

  4. You’ve captured those black shoulders and red eyes perfectly. I love the one with the head turned, too. Always a pleasure to watch and read about your subjects!

  5. My favorite is the same one as Victor chose. It really looks like the kite zeroed in on a meal.

  6. danitacahill says:

    Nice job! I’ve always found these to be elusive and secretive birds. I see them gliding over fields, but have never seen one up close, or close enough to photograph. Beautiful birds.

  7. Vicki says:

    Great shots Galen, thanks! They are one of my favorite of local raptors…as you say, they are very elegant & beautiful to watch. Almost always I see them in pairs. You also?

  8. This is fantastic, I’ve never seen photography that captured the spirit of a “raptor” this well. I would stay out of this guy’s way!!

  9. janechese says:

    never seen a kite so great to experience second -hand, especially through your eye-thanks

  10. What a wonderful study. I love them also and found them much more frequently on the Upper Texas Coast than I’m doing here at Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge where I am a live-in volunteer.

  11. lapeerclik says:

    You are such a gifted photographer. Love these.

Leave a Reply to danitacahill Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s