Scissor-tailed Kite

Information about the Bird Scissor-tailed Kite

The scissor-tailed kite or African swallow-tailed kite (Chelictinia riocourii) is a bird of prey in the monotypic genus Chelictinia in the Accipitridae family. It is widespread in the northern tropics of Africa.

The species was illustrated in 1821 for a work by Coenraad Temminck, and described in 1822 by Louis Vieillot. It had been grouped with the Elanus kites or with the larger American swallow-tailed kite; in 1843 Ren Lesson assigned it to a separate genus, Chelictinia.
The genus name Chelictinia is possibly derived from Greek or (chelidon), the swallow, with (iktinos), the kite. The specific epithet riocourii honours the Count Rioucour, Antoine Franois du Bois "first president in the Royal Court of Nancy, and possessor of a beautiful collection of birds". However, some sources refer to his son, Antoine Nicolas Franois, who was a contemporary of Vieillot.
Its plumage is mid-grey above and white below. Though lacking the black shoulder patches of Elanus on the upper surface of its wings, it does have them on the under-side. The tail is long and deeply forked, and the wings are long and pointed, with the second primary feather the longest. The legs and feet are yellow, with reticulated scales. Bill is black, with light yellow cere. Its eyes (irides) are red, and there is a small black patch above the eye, similar to that in Elanus species. It is 36 centimetres (1ft 2in) long from beak to tail-tip, of which the tail is 23 centimetres (9in).
The species inhabits the arid savannah of the Sahel region of Africa, occurring mainly in a band between 8 and 15N that stretches from Senegal on the west coast to Sudan in the east. There are also populations breeding in Ethiopia and Kenya.
It is found in many countries, including: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Togo, Uganda, and is also found in Yemen.
Although primarily preying on insects and spiders, during the breeding season, it also takes lizards and rodents. It hunts on the wing, by soaring and hovering before descending to hawk the flying prey or catch it on the ground. This is a gregarious species, sleeping at communal roost at night and hunting in loose flocks. It may also nest in loose colonies. The small stick nest is placed in thick thorny bush. Usually four eggs are laid. This kite performs regular seasonal movements related to the rains.
The species is vulnerable to degradation of the habitat and pesticides. However, populations seem to be locally common in spite of decline in some parts of the range.


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