- Author: Robert J Keiffer
The White-tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus) can occasionally be found on the UC Hopland Research & Extension Center's 5358 acres. In some recent years there have been one or two pair that nested here also. This raptor has an all white underneath, a bright white tail, and jet black wingtips and shoulders. For many past decades this species was lumped with the Black-winged Kite of Europe/Africa and was called the Black-shouldered Kite ... but now each has been given its own specific status.
Once very rare in California, probably due to shooting and egg-collecting, this species is now common once again in California. Their preference for open grassy lands to hunt, in combination with the need for trees to roost and nest in, gives them a patchy distribution across the landscape.
The White-tailed Kite feeds primarily on rodents, which they spot using keen eyesight from the air. Upon spotting a possible meal below, the kite will hover in one spot in the air, and then hold its wings upward and rapidly approach the ground in a controlled-drop in a V-shaped form to pounce upon the unsuspecting mouse.