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the web of life in southern Africa

Milvus migrans (Black 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 migrans (Black kite)   

Black kite (part of a large migratory flock), near Ciudad Real, Spain. [photo Mike Grimes ]

Distribution and habitat

It breeds across much of Eurasia, heading south in the non-breeding season to Madagascar and sub-Saharan Africa. In southern Africa it occurs in patches of Namibia, northern Botswana and South Africa, generally preferring woodland habitats.

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

Palearctic breeding migrant, arriving in southern Africa at the start of the rains in October or November. It leaves just before the end of the rainy season, 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:


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.