Kites, Harriers & Others


Kites are generally scavengers but also prey on small mammal, insects and some small birds. The Black Kite is believed to be the most common bird of prey in the world- it originates from Europe, Asia, Africa and Australasia.

In the UK we have Red Kite which had declined and was made extinct in England. They have been reintroduced to England and Scotland since 1989. see British Raptors and Conservation for more information.

There are many other species of kite found throughout the world all generally having a forked tail, especially the Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus) of central and southern America. All generally specialise on small animals, such as insects, with some having specially adapted beaks for extracting snails from their shells.


Harriers are generally bird-catching specialists but also take insects and small mammals. There are 13 species of Harrier throughout the world. In the UK we have Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier and the rare Montagu’s Harrier.

Honey Buzzards

These birds are not true Buzzards but do look similar. There are 5 species recognised worldwide. They are mostly insectivorous and get their name, not from eating honey but raiding hives to get at larvae. It detects nests by observing flying insects. Specially adapted feathers, like scales, on the top of the head help to prevent stinging. The Honey Buzzard is a rare breeding migrant to the UK with only about 50 pairs recorded. They are shy and tend to be woodland birds so can be hard to detect.

Gymnogenes or harrier-hawks

There are 2 species, one in Africa and the other in nearby Madagascar. Their intertarsal joints (equivalent to our foot and ankle) are adapted to be extremely flexible. They can manipulate their leg in order to take young birds or eggs out of tree-hole nest, which are inaccessible to other predators. They also can take hole-roosting bats but do feed on ground prey such as reptiles (mainly lizards) and small mammals (mainly rodents).

Raptors of uncertain position

Some species do not fit into the main groups outlined above and on the main group pages. Much work has been done in recent years with the new technology of DNA. There are four species in the genus Butastur which includes the Grasshopper Buzzard. There are also 6 other species which do not fit into the larger categories. In years to come these may be classified into some of the other groups.