Milvus is a genus of medium-sized birds of prey. It is an Old World group consisting of three kites which form part of the subfamily Milvinae.


Its systematics are under revision; it contains 3 or 4 species.

Kite Information and Species ListingKites Photo Gallery

Red Kite Head Detail
Whistling Kite with fish

Allozyme data indicates that the genetic diversity in both Black and Red Kites is rather low (Schreiber et al. 2000). Successful hybridization between Milvus kites is fairly commonplace, making mtDNA analyses unreliable to resolve the genus’ phylogeny.

Furthermore, there is no good correlation between molecular characters and biogeography and morphology in the Red Kite due to very incomplete lineage sorting.

The Yellow-billed Kite is apparently a good species, as indicated by mtDNA phylogeny, biogeography, and morphology.

The Black-eared Kite is somewhat distinct morphologically, but is better considered a well-marked parapatric subspecies.

The status of the Cape Verde Kite is in doubt; while not a completely monophyletic lineage according to mtDNA data, it is still best regarded as a distinct species. Whatever its status, this population is extinct.

A prehistoric kite from the Early Pleistocene (1.8 million – 780,000 years ago) deposits at Ubeidiya (Israel) was described as Milvus pygmaeus.

Black-winged Kite
Yellow-billed Kite
Black Kite with prey in its claws
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Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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