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Double-toothed Kite

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Asa Wright Nature Center

Photo courtesy Stuart Elsom

This is a small kite that has a long tail and short orange legs. The upperparts and head are slate grey and the tail has three white bands and a white tip. The primary flight feathers are barred with white. The throat is white with a black central stripe, the rest of the underparts are rufous with gray and white barring on the abdomen. The undertail coverts are white and the underwing are barred black and white. The grey of the cheeks extends across below the white throat. The bill is black, the cere is greenish yellow and the iris red or yellow. The female is similar to the male but has less rufous below. The adult size is between 13 and 15 inches (33 - 38cm) and weight is between 170 grams to 220 grams. The immature are similar to the adult but are brown above and creamy unmarked white on breast and belly. Older immatures have dark throat stripe, streaked chest and barred lower underparts.

This forest resident of Trinidad perches just below the treetops scanning for its principal food source, lizards. It will also eat bats, insects (cicadas, grasshoppers and crickets), butterflies and bird nestlings. In hunting its prey this Kite sometimes flies straight from the perch at the prey, other times it swoops at steep angles downward from a perch to snatch prey from the air or vegetation with a quick turn and occasionally drops straight down to the surface of a lower tree crown to snatch the prey. In addition to these hunting techniques the Double-toothed Kite also (1) pursues lizards along branches by hopping with outstretched wings (Laughlin 1952, Wetmore 1965), (2) takes bats on the wing near a presumed roost site (A. Baker, unpubl. data), and (3) follows troops of capuchin (&bus cupucinus), squirrel (Suimiri sciureus and S. oerstedi), and tamarin (Saguinus mystaxand S. fuscicollis) monkeys, opportunistically capturing prey flushed by the primates (e.g.,Fontaine 1980, Boinski and Scott 1988). When following monkeys it comes to lower levels in the trees and sits behind and below the monkeys.

It is rather sluggish and can sometimes be seen perched for lengthy periods at the edge of a clearing, sometimes after a shower, with its wings spread. It often suns itself in dead trees and hunts from them rather like a flycatcher. At times the flight is rapid and pigeon-like as it rises into a tall tree; at other times it flaps and glides like an accipiter.

During midday, single birds or pairs may be seen soaring.

Vocalisations include a thin 'tsip-tsip-tsip-tsip wheeeoooip' and a long-drawn 'wheeeooo'. There are also various one- or two-syllable calls exchanged between the members of a pair. It is quite a vocal species, especially when nesting.

Family - Kites

Latin Name - Harpagus bidentatus

Range - Mexico south to Venezuela and including Trinidad

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Last modified: February 16, 2008