home   about   search

biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Milvus aegyptius (Yellow-billed kite) 

[= Milvus (migrans) migrans

Geelbekwou, Swartwou [Afrikaans]; Zwarte wouw [Dutch]; Milan d'Afrique [French]; Schmarotzermilan [German]; Milhafre-preto [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Falconiformes > Family: Accipitridae

Milvus aegyptius (Yellow-billed kite) 

Yellow-billed kite. [photo Gerhard Theron ]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs across sub-Saharan Africa; in southern Africa it is common across much of the region, largely excluding the Karoo, Kahalari and Namib Desert. It can be found in a wide variety of habitats, but it especially favours woodland and rural areas (with a high human population).

Distribution of Black kite in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project ( Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

Intra-African breeding migrant, arriving in southern Africa from August-October and departing in March.


It eats a wide variety of animals, typically searching for prey aerially; it uses the style of flight characteristic of kites, as it swivels its tail horizontally to steer accurately. Once it spots something, it rapidly swoops to the ground to catch the prey item. The Black kite and the Yellow-billed kite can be grouped as one species, so the following list of food items in its diet applies for both of them:


  • Monogamous, territorial solitary nester, performing an elaborate courtship display in which the male follows the female while calling and flying acrobatically. The male then soars high up in the air before it dives at the female, who rolls on her back to present her claws, so that they can lock talons.
  • The nest is built by both sexes, consisting of a bowl-shaped platform of sticks which is lined with a variety of materials, such as skin, hair, dung, paper, scraps of cloth or rarely green leaves. It is typically placed on the main stem in the canopy of a large tree, such as Euphorbia.
  • Egg-laying season is from August-December, peaking from September-October.
  • It lays 1-3 eggs, which are mainly incubated by the female for about 37-38 days; the male may take over so that the female can go out to forage.
  • The chicks are brooded constantly by the female for the first 5-6 days of their lives, while the male provides all the food. When they become about a month old the female helps him provide food for their young, who leave the nest to clamber around the branches of the tree at about 40 days old, taking their first flight a few days later.


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.