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Black-shouldered Kite

Black-shouldered Kite
Photo Information
Copyright: Zahoor Ahmed (zahoor_salmi) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 108 W: 0 N: 618] (5538)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2009-04-09
Categories: Birds
Camera: Canon 40D, 400f5.6 L
Exposure: f/5.6, 1/800 seconds
Details: Tripod: Yes
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version
Date Submitted: 2009-07-29 5:08
Viewed: 2921
Favorites: 1 [view]
Points: 24
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
The Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus axillaris) or Australian Black-shouldered Kite is a small raptor found in open habitat throughout Australia and should not be confused with the Black-winged Kite, which is also called Black-shouldered Kite. Like all the elanid kites, it is a specialist predator of rodents

The name "Black-shouldered Kite" was formerly used for a Eurasian and African species, Elanus caeruleus, and the Australian bird (and also a North American species, the White-tailed Kite Elanus leucurus) were treated as subspecies of this. However the three species are now regarded as distinct, and the name Black-winged Kite is used for E. caeruleus. Modern references to the Black-shouldered Kite should therefore unambiguously mean the Australian species.

Black-Shouldered Kites are around 35 to 38 cm in length and have a wingspan of between 80 and 95 cm. Adults are a very pale grey with a white head and white underparts. The leading edge of the inner wing is black. When perched, this gives them their prominent black "shoulders". It has a squared tail, and like all birds, a streamlined aerodynamic body.

Although reported from almost all parts of Australia, they are most common in the relatively fertile south-east and south-west corners of the mainland, and in south-east Queensland.They are also common throughout Southern Africa. They are rare in the deep desert and appear to be only accidental visitors to northern Tasmania and the Torres Strait islands. Although found in timbered country, they are mainly birds of the grasslands. European occupation of Australia has, on the whole, benefited them by clearing vast expanses of forest for agriculture and providing suitable conditions for much larger numbers of mice.

Food and hunting

HuntingBlack-shouldered Kites live almost exclusively on mice. They take other suitably-sized creatures when available, including grasshoppers, rats, small reptiles, birds, and even (very rarely) rabbits, but mice and other mouse-sized mammals account for over 90% of their diet. Their influence on mouse populations is probably significant: adults take two or three mice a day each if they can, and on one occasion a male was observed bringing no less than 14 mice to a nest of well-advanced fledglings within an hour.

Like other elanid kites, Black-shouldered Kites hunt by quartering grasslands for small creatures. This can be from a perch (usually a dead tree, as illustrated above), but more often by hovering in mid-air with conspicuous skill and little apparent effort. Typically, a kite will hover 10 to 50 metres above a particular spot, peering down intently, sometimes for only a few seconds, often for a minute or more, then glide swiftly to a new vantage point and hover again.

When a mouse or other prey is spotted, the kite drops silently onto it, feet-first with wings raised high; sometimes in one long drop to ground level, more often in two or more stages, with hovering pauses at intermediate heights. About two-thirds of attacks are successful. Prey can either be eaten in flight or carried back to a perch.

MMM, Miss_Piggy, robindb, bartove, goatman04, cloud has marked this note useful
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Critiques [Translate]

  • Great 
  • MMM Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1114 W: 0 N: 2546] (11425)
  • [2009-07-29 5:12]

Hi Zahoor
This is an excellent closed up of that Kite.Beautiful pose and razor sharp image with good plumage detail.
TFS Michel

Hallo Zahoor
What a beautiful bird is this Black-shouldered Kite. I just love the fluffy white chest feathers, the red eye and the very yellow paws. Everything of this bird is just lovely. Great pose and I like the new sprouts on the branch it is sitting on, as it adds to the speciality of this image. Thanks for sharing. Best regards.

Hi Zahoor,

A really nice image of this proud looking bird. Sharp, well exposed on the whites and detailed throughout with a nice perch. Well Done.


Hi, Zahoor
This is a beautiful portrait of this little hawk. Contrast is high but well controlled and absolutely everything necessary is very sharp. Great work.

great shot of a great bird,
I am a bit distracted by the sky next to its back it seems caused by post-processing but not sure

Hello Zahoor ,
Very sharp and detailed raptor photo .
Congratulations .

Excellent photo of this Kite . Very good sharp details, composition and natural colours.
Beautiful blue sky.

Salam Zahoor,

A great capture with beautiful colors, sharpness & details. Well done & TFS.

Salam & Regards


  • Great 
  • PeterZ Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5137 W: 166 N: 13121] (49139)
  • [2009-07-29 10:22]

Hello Zahoor,
How jalous I am! What an awesome photo! Taken so close in perfect sharpness and details. Fantastic clear colours against a very beautiful OOF BG. Great POV and composition.
It goes into my favourites.

  • Great 
  • Nilson Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 488 W: 0 N: 566] (4423)
  • [2009-07-29 11:22]

Hello Zahoor

Wonderful shot with good details and exposition of the body. Natural colors and lighting. Excellent composition.
Well done

  • Great 
  • cloud Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 497 W: 111 N: 1535] (9539)
  • [2009-07-29 14:15]

Hello Zahoor,
I've never seen this species from so short distance. Perfect sharpness,light, clear colours, nice pose> The bird against blue sky look magnifically.
Regards, Pawel

what a beautiful bird of prey! :-) excellent sharp capture with great details, love the amazing red eye with its alert stare.
well done & best wishes, thor.

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