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.
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.
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.”
They are an easier raptor to learn, because of their coloring and their flight style. Nothing else moves quite like them in the air.
If you are lucky enough to see one at close range, try to notice their eyes. A very striking color.