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Swallow-tailed kites are also known as forked-tailed kites, swallow hawks, wasp hawks, and snake hawks.

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Maganti, J. 2007. "Elanoides forficatus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Elanoides_forficatus.html
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Jansi Maganti, Kalamazoo College
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Behavior

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Swallow-tailed kites communicate primarily through cries, short, weak, high-pitched whistles, and twitters, usually while hunting or during mating season. They also use visual displays, including postures associated with courtship and mating. Like other raptors, swallow-tailed kites, primarily use vision to hunt for food.

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Maganti, J. 2007. "Elanoides forficatus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Elanoides_forficatus.html
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Conservation Status

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Elanoides forficatus has not been classified as a threatened species. Before 1980, these birds were found as far as the northern Midwest, but due to logging, draining of swamps, and shooting, populations dwindled and are now found only in the southern U.S., mainly in Florida and tropical habitats during the winter. They are protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Act.

US Migratory Bird Act: protected

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Maganti, J. 2007. "Elanoides forficatus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Elanoides_forficatus.html
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Benefits

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There are no known adverse effects of E. forficatus on humans.

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Maganti, J. 2007. "Elanoides forficatus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Elanoides_forficatus.html
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Benefits

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Swallow-tailed kites contribute to control of insect populations in habitats they occupy. They are also lovely birds that attract ecotourism.

Positive Impacts: ecotourism ; controls pest population

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Maganti, J. 2007. "Elanoides forficatus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Elanoides_forficatus.html
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Associations

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There is little known about the role of wallow-tailed kites in their native ecosystem, although it can be surmised that they help control insect populations.

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Maganti, J. 2007. "Elanoides forficatus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Elanoides_forficatus.html
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Jansi Maganti, Kalamazoo College
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Trophic Strategy

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Swallow-tailed kites are primarily insectivorous, snatching and feeding on flying insects in mid-air, but they are also known to capture other prey, such as snakes, frogs, and nestlings and fledglings. They do not hover and usually eat prey in mid-flight. They also drink in flight in a fashion similar to swallows, by skimming the water.

Animal Foods: birds; amphibians; reptiles; insects

Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates, Insectivore )

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Maganti, J. 2007. "Elanoides forficatus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Elanoides_forficatus.html
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Jansi Maganti, Kalamazoo College
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Distribution

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Elanoides forficatus, otherwise known as the American swallow-tailed kite, is found primarily in the southeastern United States, from Louisiana to South Carolina. Most of the known population is centered in the southern tip of Florida. In the winter E. forficatus migrates to South America.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); neotropical (Native )

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Maganti, J. 2007. "Elanoides forficatus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Elanoides_forficatus.html
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Habitat

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Swallow-tailed kites occupy wooded swamps, open forests, lake shores, and freshwater marshes. They nest near sources of water in tall trees, anywhere from 18 to 40 meters above the ground.

Range elevation: 0 (low) m.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest

Aquatic Biomes: coastal

Wetlands: marsh ; swamp

Other Habitat Features: riparian

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Maganti, J. 2007. "Elanoides forficatus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Elanoides_forficatus.html
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Life Expectancy

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There is no specific information available on the lifespan of E. forficatus, but the lifespan of one white-tailed kite was recorded to be nearly 6 years.

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Maganti, J. 2007. "Elanoides forficatus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Elanoides_forficatus.html
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Jansi Maganti, Kalamazoo College
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Morphology

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The most notable feature of E. forficatus is the deeply forked swallow-like tail, which distinguishes this kite species from its relatives, Mississippi kites and white-tailed kites. The structure of the tail enables this kite to fly well at low speeds. The wings are long and thin, enabling flight at high speeds as well.

Swallow-tailed kites are monomorphic. Adults have black wings with white undersides, white heads, necks, and underparts. The tail and upperparts are iridescent black, with streaks of green, purple, and bronze. Juveniles look similar to adults but with slightly streaked heads and underparts, as well as shorter white-tipped tails.

Swallow-tailed kites have a body length ranging from 49 to 65 cm. Wingspan is from 114 to 127 cm. The average weight of maled is 441 g and the average weight of females is 423 g, although females may be slightly larger in size.

Range mass: 423 to 441 g.

Range length: 49 to 65 cm.

Average length: 58 cm.

Range wingspan: 114 to 127 cm.

Average wingspan: 122 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike; female larger

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Maganti, J. 2007. "Elanoides forficatus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Elanoides_forficatus.html
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Jansi Maganti, Kalamazoo College
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Associations

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Little is known about predators of swallow-tailed kites, but fledglings are often preyed on by owls, especially great horned owls (Bubo virginianus).

Known Predators:

  • great horned owls (Bubo virginianus)
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Maganti, J. 2007. "Elanoides forficatus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Elanoides_forficatus.html
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Reproduction

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Swallow-tailed kites are monogamous, although pair bonds are not necessarily maintained between breeding seasons. Females and males will approach each other on a horizontal tree limb. The female will quickly go under the limb or turn, bending forward with the wings extended. The male lands on her back and drapes his wings over the female, then mating occurs. There is also courtship feeding.

Mating System: monogamous

Swallow-tailed kites breed once per year, usually in April. They produce loud shrills, squealing calls, and whistles during the mating season. Females usually lay two eggs per clutch. The eggs are incubated for approximately 28 days, and the fledgling period lasts anywhere from 36 to 42 days. Fledglings can take an additional 2 weeks or more to become independent.

Breeding interval: Swallow-tailed kites breed once yearly.

Breeding season: The breeding season is short and usually occurs in the month of April.

Range eggs per season: 3 (high) .

Average eggs per season: 2.

Average time to hatching: 28 days.

Range fledging age: 36 to 42 days.

Range time to independence: 50 (low) days.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous

Not much is known about the degree of parental investment in swallow-tailed kites. Both parents incubate the eggs. When one parent comes in to sit on the eggs, the other flies straight up from the nest. The incoming parent hovers over the nest, and then gently settles down. Young are altricial. In their close relatives males bring back food while females watch the young and protect the nest. Towards the end of the nesting period both parents will hunt. After fledging the adults continue to provide food for their young.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female)

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Maganti, J. 2007. "Elanoides forficatus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Elanoides_forficatus.html
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Brief Summary

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The American swallow-tailed kite, Elanoides forficatus, is one of about 10 species of small hovering kites (subfamily Elaninae).This bird of prey can be found in the southeastern United States and south to northern Argentina, east of the Andes Mountain range.Experts estimate about 10 percent of the global population inhabits the United States, most of them in southern tip of Florida, although the population extends from South Carolina through Texas. In the winter the North American and Central American populations migrate to South America. Before migrating, North American birds congregate in very large numbers about three pre-migratory staging areas in Florida.They return to the US to nest in mid-February.

The swallow-tailed kite was named for its deeply forked, swallow-like black tail. Adults have long, thin wings that span 1.1-1.3 meters (3.7-4.2 feet) from tip to tip.This wingspan is several times the length of their body. Their long wings allow them to fly at high speeds, and their tail adds maneuverability making them graceful and adept flyers. American swallow-tailed kites have white heads, necks and bellies; their backs are iridescent black, with streaks of green, purple, and bronze.Juveniles are duller in color, with streaking on their heads and belly.They also have shorter tails, with white tips, but otherwise are similar in appearance to adults.Females are slightly larger than males but the sexes are difficult to distinguish.

Swallow-tailed kites occupy a variety of forested, open and wetland habitats including cypress and mangrove swamps, lakeshores and riparian forests, savanna and prairie, and freshwater and brackish marshes. South American and overwintering northern populations seek out tropical humid forests and cloud forests.They live at altitudes from sea level up to 1800 meters (6000 feet), but can wander up to altitudes of 3000 meters (10,000 feet). Swallow-tailed kites nest near sources of water in especially tall trees, anywhere from 18 to 40 meters above the ground. For nesting, they favor pine and cypress trees trees.

Swallow-tailed kites forage on the wing, in groups.Sometimes foraging groups include more than 100 individuals. Insects, which they catch and eat in mid-air, make up most of the adult diet.Adult birds also eat a small amount of vertebrate prey, such as amphibians, reptiles, eggs and hatchling birds, and occasional bats and fish. Fledglings, on the other hand, are fed a diet made up mostly of vertebrates (especially frogs). In the tropics, swallow-tailed kites also eat fruit.To drink, they scoop water in their beak as they fly.

Swallow-tailed kites roost in groups of up to 30 individuals. Though mostly silent, they can communicate with short, weak, high-pitched whistles and twitters, especially during the annual breeding season.Courtship starts in February. Swallow-tailed kites carry out courtship posturing, aero-acrobatic displays and males perform courtship feedings.Adults form monogomous pair bonds, meaning that they pair with just one mate for the whole breeding season, although they do not necessarily form the same pairs in subsequent seasons. They breed communally, in small colonies of 2-5 nests. Both parents build the nest, a platform of sticks and twigs lined with moss or lichens and concealed in foliage.Nests are reused and remodeled year after year, but it has not yet been determined whether the same adults return to the previous year’s nest. Females lay 2-4 eggs, and the parents share the job of incubating the eggs for about a month.Both parents protect and feed the young in the nest until they fledge and become independent, about eight weeks after hatching.

Before 1880, American swallow-tailed kites ranged to the northern Midwest.Habitat destruction and hunting has since reduced the North American population to the southern U.S. They are protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Act, listed as endangered in South Carolina, threatened in Texas, and "rare" in Georgia, but are not federally classified as a threatened species.Some estimate that populations in the US are increasing but it is unclear whether this is due to migration pattern changes or increases in absolute population numbers.

(BirdLife International 2012; Bouglougan 2016; Kilham 1980; Maganit 2007; Meyer et al. 2004; NatureServe 2015; Wikipedia 2016)

References

  • BirdLife International. 2012. Elanoides forficatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T22695017A40348308. Retrieved January 27, 2016 from http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2012-1.RLTS.T22695017A40348308.en.
  • Bouglougan, N. Swallow-tailed kite. Oiseaux-birds article. Retrieved Jan 27, 2016 from http://www.oiseaux-birds.com/card-swallow-tailed-kite.html
  • Kilham, L., 1980. Pre-nesting behavior of the Swallow-tailed Kite, including interference by an unmated male with a breeding pair. Raptor Research 14.1: 29-3.
  • Maganti, J. 2007. "Elanoides forficatus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed February 12, 2016 at http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Elanoides_forficatus/
  • Meyer, K. D., McGehee, S. M., and Collopy, M. W. 2004. Food deliveries at Swallow-tailed Kite nests in southern Florida. The Condor, 106(1), 171-176.
  • NatureServe, January 2015. Elanoides forficatus - (Linnaeus, 1758). Retrieved January 29, 2015 from http://explorer.natureserve.org/servlet/NatureServe?searchName=Elanoides+forficatus
  • Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 9 February 2016. Swallow-tailed kite. Retrieved February 12, 2016 from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Swallow-tailed_kite&oldid=704047071

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Swallow-tailed kite

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The swallow-tailed kite (Elanoides forficatus) is a pernine raptor which breeds from the southeastern United States to eastern Peru and northern Argentina. It is the only species in the genus Elanoides. Most North and Central American breeders winter in South America where the species is resident year round.

Taxonomy and systematics

The swallow-tailed kite was first described as the "swallow-tail hawk" and "accipiter cauda furcata" (forked-tail hawk) by the English naturalist Mark Catesby in 1731.[2] It was given the binomial scientific name Falco forficatus by Carl Linnaeus in the 10th edition of Systema Naturae, published in 1758;[3] he changed this to Falco furcatus in the 12th edition of 1766.[4] The latter spelling was used widely during the 18th and 19th centuries, but the original spelling has precedence. The genus Elanoides was introduced by the French ornithologist Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot in 1818.[5][6] The name is from Ancient Greek elanos for "kite" and -oides for "resembling".[7]

Description

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Plate 72 of the Birds of America by John James Audubon, depicting the swallow-tailed "hawk," or kite

The species is 50 to 68 cm (20 to 27 in) in length, with a wingspan of approximately 1.12–1.36 m (3.7–4.5 ft). Male and female individuals appear similar. The body weight is 310–600 g (11–21 oz).[8][9] The body is a contrasting deep black and white. The flight feathers, tail, feet, bill are all black. Another characteristic is the elongated, forked tail at 27.5–37 centimetres (10.8–14.6 in) long, hence the name swallow-tailed. The wings are also relatively elongated, as the wing chord measures 39–45 cm (15–18 in). The tarsus is fairly short for the size of the bird at 3.3 cm (1.3 in).[10] 50 to 68 cm in length, with a wingspan of 1.12–1.36 m with a wing chord measuring 39–45 cm. The body is a contrasting deep black and white. The upper side of the wings is black along with the, tail, feet, and bill. The underside of the wings is partly black and partly white. The forked tail is 27.5–37 centimeters long.

Young swallow-tailed kites are duller in color than the adults, and the tail is not as deeply forked.

Habitat and behavior

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Swallow-tailed kite

The swallow-tailed kite is largely associated with large tracts of wetland forests which accommodates the birds nesting habits. Loblolly pines are the most prevalent choice for building nests but bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) are also used when the pines are unavailable. The major requirement of these nesting sites are food availability and tree height. Nesting locations are often found in trees as high as 100 ft (30 m). Historic ranges in the United States covered the majority of the Southern states and much of the Midwest (as far north as Minnesota). Aside from the US, it resides in many areas throughout Central and South America. Habitat degradation and changes in wetland hydrology have caused the range to shrink in the US to just coastal regions of the southeastern and southwestern US, roughly an 80% decline in population. Swallow-tailed kites are considered migratory raptors and during the spring months often move from areas in Central and South America to breed. Roughly 3% of the worlds population breed in the United States.[11] Traveling thousands of miles these birds move towards the most suitable nesting habitat found within coastal wetlands between the Americas. Satellite-telemetry has allowed researchers to track movements of individual birds over the years and has yielded data that demonstrates some migration journeys longer than 10,000 mi (16,000 km). Land located within migration routes is thought to be another concern for the kites, as deforestation and habitat degradation in Central and South Americas can have adverse affects as the birds move to breed. The birds are considered one of the most graceful fliers seen in America and often spend the majority of their lives scouring high tree tops for lizards, small mammals, and insects. The morphology of the swallow-tailed kite's wing and tail structure allows the bird to glide effortlessly for long distances.[12][13][11]

Sometimes a high-pitched chirp is emitted, though the birds mostly remain silent.

Diet

The swallow-tailed kite feeds on small reptiles, such as snakes and lizards. It may also feed on small amphibians such as frogs; large insects, such as grasshoppers, crickets; small birds and eggs; and small mammals including bats. It has been observed to regularly consume fruit in Central America.[14] It drinks by skimming the surface and collecting water in its beak. The bird usually does not break flight during feeding.[8]

Reproduction

Mating occurs from March to May, with the female laying 2 to 4 eggs. Incubation lasts 28 days, and 36 to 42 days to fledge. Often thought to form monogamous pairs, the birds are thought to spend some time apart and meet up during migrations to nesting locations. These nesting locations are often found in the highest trees in wetland areas.[8] On occasion, pairs will return to the same nesting locations of the previous years and refurbish old nests. Generally, nests take about four days to complete.[8]

Conservation in the United States

 src=
A groupe of more than 20 swallow-tailed kites gathering at sunset in Sanibel Island, Florida

Swallow-tailed kites are not listed as endangered or threatened by the federal government in the United States. They are listed as endangered by the state of South Carolina and as threatened by the state of Texas. They are listed as "rare" by the state of Georgia.

The Center for Birds of Prey in Charleston, SC has an ongoing effort to track sightings within the state. Anonymous reports can be made at https://stki.thecenterforbirdsofprey.org or by telephone. They will also send you the summary of the years reported sightings if you leave them your contact information.

Destruction of habitats is chiefly responsible for the decline in numbers. A key conservation area is the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. As of 2016, populations have seemed to stabilize and even show increasing trends. Successful habitat restoration and management has allowed these birds to reestablish nesting populations in areas of Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina.

References

Sources
Notes
  1. ^ BirdLife International (2016). "Elanoides forficatus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T22695017A93484824. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22695017A93484824.en. Retrieved 13 November 2021.
  2. ^ Catesby, Mark (1731). "The swallow-tail hawk". The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, Volume 1. London. p. 4.
  3. ^ Linnæi, Caroli (1758). Systema Naturae per Regna Tria Naturæ, tome 1 (in Latin) (10th ed.). Holmiæ (Stockholm): Laurentii Salvii. p. 59. BHL / Missouri Botanical Garden
  4. ^ a Linné, Caroli (1766). Systema Naturae per Regna Tria Naturæ, tome 1 (in Latin) (12th ed.). Holmiæ (Stockholm): Laurentii Salvii. p. 129. BHL / Harvard University Botany Libraries
  5. ^ Vieillot, Louis Jean Pierre (1818). Nouveau Dictionnaire d'Histoire Naturelle Appliquée aux Arts. Volume 24 (in French). Paris: Chez Deterville. p. 101.
  6. ^ Mayr, Ernst; Cottrell, G. William, eds. (1979). Check-list of Birds of the World. Volume 1 (2nd ed.). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Museum of Comparative Zoology. p. 288.
  7. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 144. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  8. ^ a b c d Swallow-tailed Kite - Lifehistory
  9. ^ Clements, Kenny (2007). Encyclopedia of Birds. Facts On File, Incorporated. ISBN 9781438129983.
  10. ^ Raptors of the World by Ferguson-Lees, Christie, Franklin, Mead & Burton. Houghton Mifflin (2001), ISBN 0-618-12762-3
  11. ^ a b Swallow-tailed Kite - dc.statelibrary.sc.gov
  12. ^ swallow-tailedkites.org
  13. ^ "Swallow-tailed kite Habitat Requirements" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-10-04. Retrieved 2018-04-27.
  14. ^ Buskirk, William; Margaret Lechner (October 1978). "Frugivory by Swallow-Tailed Kites in Costa Rica". The Auk. 95: 767–768.

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Swallow-tailed kite: Brief Summary

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The swallow-tailed kite (Elanoides forficatus) is a pernine raptor which breeds from the southeastern United States to eastern Peru and northern Argentina. It is the only species in the genus Elanoides. Most North and Central American breeders winter in South America where the species is resident year round.

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