Letter-winged kite Letter-winged kite - ImagesGram

Letter-winged kite

The letter-winged kite (Elanus scriptus) is a small, rare bird of prey that is found only in Australia. Measuring around 35 cm (14 in) in length with a wingspan of 84–100 cm (33–39 in), the adult has predominantly pale grey and white plumage and prominent black rings around its red eyes. It gains its name from a distinctive black "M" or "W" shape on the underwing, seen when in flight. This marking distinguishes it from the otherwise similar black-shouldered kite. The species begins breeding rapidly in response to rodent outbreaks, with pairs nesting in loose colonies of up to 50 birds each. Three to four eggs are laid and incubated for around 30 days, though the eggs may be abandoned if the food source disappears. Chicks are fledged within five weeks of hatching. Roosting in well-foliaged trees during the day, the letter-winged kite hunts for rodents mostly at night, hovering in midair above grasslands and fields.


The letter-winged kite is generally silent when alone but often noisy when breeding or roosting communally at night, beginning to call at the rising of the moon. Its calls have been described as chicken-like chirping or a repeated loud kacking, and at times resemble those of the barn owl or black-shouldered kite. A rasping call, or scrape, composed of six or seven half-second long notes is the main contact call between a pair. It is often used by the female in answer to a whistle by her mate, when a bird alights at the nest, or—loudly—in response to an intruder. The male can utter a loud whistle in flight, which can serve as an alarm call. Mated pairs chatter to one another at night in the colony.