“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"