Subject: Kites
Date: Thu, 29 Jun 95 8:05:07 +1000
Paul and Peter,

I'm catching up on some emails and have seen yours from 14 June regarding the 
differences between Black-winged, Black-shouldered and White-tailed Kites 
etc., and particularly the reference to the "Australian Kite".

There are four kites in the Genus elanus in the world, and Australia has two:

1       Black-shouldered Kite (or Australian Black-shouldered Kite, but never 
"Australian Kite")

For a long time this was Elanus notatus (Gould 1838) however a 1994 taxonomic 
revision of Australian birds changed this to Elanus axillaris (due to Latham 
1801 preceding).

Apparently some North American references considered E. axillaris conspecific 
with New World E. leucurus, but 1992 work decided they were two different 
species.  E. axillaris is also different to E. caeruleus which occurs in New 
Guinea (and is differentiated by having no black patch on the underwing).

2       Letter-winged Kite, Elanus scriptus.

In some ways similar to our Black-shouldered Kite:  if the bird is sitting, 
there's very little difference between the two, the Letter-winged Kite having 
a small black patch behind the eye.  It's when they're flying that the obvious 
difference comes into play:  the Black-shouldered Kite has a roundish black 
patch on the underwing whilst the Letter-winged Kite has a large black bar 
across the underwing (M or W shape and hence the name Letter-winged Kite).

Happy birding
Irene Denton
Sydney, Australia

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