Monday, September 9, 2013

Kite's foot detail - Maree

“The wild hawk stood with the down on his beak
And stared with his foot on the prey.”
- Lord Alfred Tennyson

Kites are raptors with long wings and weak legs which spend a great deal of time sitting on overhead wires and hovering when they have spotted prey. They have featherless feet, but they also developed a range of other impressive adaptations that help them hunt most anything in their environment. Each foot has four powerful toes with sharp talons. Tiny projections on the bottom of their feet called “spicules” help kites grasp their prey.

The Black-shouldered Kite occurs in India, South-East Asia, south-western Europe and across sub-Saharan Africa, from southern Mauritania to Eritrea south to southern Africa. Here it is very common across the region but especially in South Africa, north-eastern Zimbabwe and central Botswana, occurring in most habitats but generally preferring grassland, transformed fynbos and cultivated land. It is largely absent from closed woodland, forest and desert.

A Staedtler HB pencil sketch detail of the Black-shouldered Kite's foot in my Moleskine large sketch-book 8" x 5"


  1. Maree, what a wonderful post...I didn't know about the spicules, and I love raptors! Thanks for the tidbit.

  2. Thanks a lot Kate, pleased you found that information interesting!

  3. Without realizing it you also solved a puzzle for me. Our kites in Oregon used to be called black-shouldered kites and then they changed the name to white-tailed kites. The name change never made sense to me, but now I realize it is to keep the common names of the two species different. ....... but I read that someday DNA studies may put them back together as one species. Sometimes it gets so confusing! So I plan to enjoy them, whatever they are!

    1. It's always confusing when they change the names Elva, in plants too, but you're right, maybe future studies will sort it out.


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