Thursday, Aug. 12, 2004
* Japanese name: Tobi
* Scientific name:Milvus lineatus
* Description: Kites are large raptors, birds of prey with a noticeably forked tail. The black-eared kite has dark brown plumage (darker than the plumage of its close relative, the red kite), and black feathers over its ears. They have large wings and spend much of the time soaring and circling in the sky. Viewed from beneath, kites have a light-colored band of feathers just before their dark wingtips. The end feathers often splay into "fingers" when they're flying.
Black-eared kites have relatively weak legs. They are vocal birds, and their distinctive call sounds much like a horse neighing. Males grow up to 58 cm long; females 68 cm.
* Where to find them:
Kites can be seen around towns and villages, as well as rivers and coasts. They nest in trees in forests, and often close to other kites. In winter, many kites will roost together.
Kites are opportunists. In other words, they eat pretty much anything they come across, even catching insects in flight. They will also hunt and kill small mammals, such as mice; reptiles, such as lizards; and other birds, including young chickens on farms. Sometimes they also eat fish. But much of their diet is made up of carrion. Kites scavenge near human settlements and rubbish tips.
* Special features:
The kite is the bird whose English name was given to the aerial toy invented in ancient China. Like those made from paper and flown by humans, black-eared kites can be remarkably aerobatic. On a beach on the Izu Peninsula, I once saw a kite fly upside-down to snatch a fish's head from the claws of a scavenging crow. Despite their flying skill, however, black-eared kites are a vulnerable species, and are listed in the Red Data Book.