Gray-headed kite

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Gray-headed Kite
Scientific classification
Kingdom Information
Domain Eukaryota
Kingdom Animalia
Subkingdom Bilateria
Branch Deuterostomia
Phylum Information
Phylum Chordata
Sub-phylum Vertebrata
Infraphylum Gnathostomata
Class Information
Superclass Tetrapoda
Class Aves
Sub-class Neornithes
Infra-class Neoaves
Order Information
Order Accipitriformes
Sub-order Accipitres
Family Information
Superfamily Accipitroidea
Family Accipitridae
Sub-family Perninae
Genus Information
Genus Leptodon
Species Information
Species L. cayanensis
Synonyms Falco cayanensis
Population statistics
Population Unknown (2016 est.)[1]
Conservation status Least concern[2]

The gray-headed, or Brazilian kite (Leptodon cayanensis) is a species of bird of prey of the family Accipitridae, and found throughout much of Central and South America.


The gray-headed kite measures 18.5 to 21.3 inches long, a wingspan of 35.5 to 43.3 inches, and weighs 14.4 to 21.3 ounces. Females are larger than males. In the adult the light gray color of the head stands out clearly above the white of the chest and belly, and the black upper wings and back. Underwings bear dark coverts, and primaries boldly marked in bands of dark gray and white; secondaries are largely light gray with slightly darker banding. The black tail alternates with three broad white and gray bands. The legs are strong and bluish-gray in color, the same color as the bare skin around the nostrils, while the beak is blue.

The voice is remarkedly trogan-like, alternating between a shrill aya-yut and a repeated aut-aut-aut[3].


  • Leptodon cayanensis cayanensis; southeastern Mexico, south to western Ecuador, the Guianas and Brazilian Amazonia; Trinidad
  • Leptodon cayanensis monachus; central Brazil to eastern Bolivia, northern Argentina and Paraguay

Range and habitat

The gray-headed kite is a species with neotropical distribution and is present from Mexico to Paraguay and northern Argentina. In Brazil it is present wherever there are wooded areas, but outside of the Amazon it is considered uncommon.

It lives in woods and open forests, riparian forests, dry and cerrado forests, and only rarely is it spotted in areas with more open vegetation. It wanders in the forests and is able to fly at great height. Despite its size, it moves easily through dense vegetation and is difficult to spot.


The diet of this species is varied, being composed of insect larvae and adult insects such as wasps, ants, beetles and grasshoppers, as well as from bird eggs and nestlings, small reptiles and mammals, and small invertebrates, such as snails. It has been seen to capture insects in flight.


Most of the information relating to reproduction in this species derives from studies carried out by Russell Thorstrom (1997) in Guatemala[4] and by Carvalho Filho et al. (2005) in Brazil[5]. The nest is a structure consisting of twigs placed on a fork of a tree, in which 1-2 white eggs spotted with brown are laid. Thorstrom and Filho have observed in both cases the parents incubating the eggs, and subsequently providing food to the chicks. In the three nests studied in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, the construction of the nest began in September, the brooding lasting into the middle of October, with the young completely covered with feathers by November / December of the same year[6].