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Hook-billed Kite

Chondrohierax uncinatus

Length: 18 inches Wingspan: 36 inches Seasonality: Non-resident in South Dakota
ID Keys: Large, deeply-hooked bill, males gray overall and barred underneath, females grayish brown above and barred underneath

Hook-billed Kite - Chondrohierax uncinatusThe Hook-billed Kite is a rather odd raptor that just reaches the U.S. in extreme southern Texas.  It was unknown in the U.S. until the 1960s, but now seems to be a permanent resident in the forested woodlands along the Rio Grande.  The strongly hooked bill is used to extract the "meat" from its main prey, tree snails.  The species has a widespread geographic range, and is found in much of Mexico, Central America, and South America.  Plumage and bill size are quite variable between geographic locations, with bill size seemingly correlated to the size of snails in their foraging range.

Habitat: Seems to be found in most forested habitats where tree snails are common.  In the tiny U.S. portion of their range, they are found in deciduous forests along the Rio Grande.

Diet: Feeds mostly on tree snails, although they will also take large insects, small lizards and snakes, and small amphibians. 

Behavior: Climbs through the vegetation more like a parrot than a raptor, searching for tree snails.

Nesting: Both the male and female help to build a loose nest of sticks.  Both parents help to incubate the eggs and raise the young.

Song: Gives a cackling series of chatters.

Migration: Considered a permanent resident throughout its range.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Hook-billed Kite sightings

Similar Species: Snail Kite 

Conservation Status: The species has a wide geographic distribution, and the IUCN lists it as a species of "Least Concern".  However, there are certain sub-species and local populations of Hook-billed Kites that are threatened.

Further Information: 1) Cornell's Neotropical Birds - Hook-billed Kite

2) Planet of Birds - Hook-billed Kite

Photo Information: July 23rd, 2011 - Belem, Brazil - By Claudio Dias Timm - Photo licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.


Click below for a higher-resolution map
Hook-billed Kite - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Non-resident in South Dakota

Additional Hook-billed Kite Photos (coming soon!!)