Wild Birds

Pearl Kites

The Pearl Kites (Gampsonyx swainsonii) are small raptors that favor open savanna habitat, next to deciduous woodland.

Distribution / Range:

Pearl Kites occur in Panama, Colombia and Venezuela south to Bolivia and northern Argentina.

An isolated sedentary (non-migratory) population exist in Nicaragua.

This species is in the process of expanding its territory. In 1970, it was found Trinidad – an island situated off the northeastern coast of Venezuela.

It is expected to reach Costa Rica in the near future.

Nesting / Breeding:

They may produce up to two broods in a seson. Their deep cup nests of sticks are usually situated in tall trees. The average clutch consists of 2 – 4 brown-marked white eggs. The female incubates them (mostly alone) for about 34 – 35 days to hatching. The young fledge when they are about 5 weeks old.


The Pearl Kite measures 20.3-23 cm in length (from the top of the head to the tip of the tail) and weighs 80-95 g.

Adults have a black crown. The cheeks and forehead are yellow. The plumage below is mostly white. The legs are yellow.

Young birds resemble the adults, but have white and chestnut tips to the back and wing feathers, a buff collar and some buff on the white underparts.

In flight this species looks mainly black above and white below.

The northern form G. s. leonae differs from the southern G. s. swainsonii nominate form in that it has rufous flanks.

Diet / Feeding:

The Pearl Kite mostly feeds mainly on lizards, especially Anolis. They may also take small birds and insects.

Call / Song:

Its call is described as a high musical pip-pip-pip-pip or kitty-kitty-kitty.

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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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