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Black kite, (Milvus migrans)
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Accipitriformes
Family: Accipitridae
Subfamily: Milvinae
Genus: Milvus
Lacépède, 1799
Type species
Falco milvus
Linnaeus, 1758

See text for discussion

Milvus is a genus of medium-sized birds of prey. The genus was erected by the French naturalist Bernard Germain de Lacépède in 1799 with the red kite as the type species.[1][2] The name is the Latin word for the red kite.[3]


This is an Old World group that forms part of the subfamily Milvinae. The genus contains three species.[4]

Image Scientific name Common Name Distribution
Milvus milvus Red kite western Europe and northwest Africa,
Milvus migrans Black kite Eurasia and parts of Australasia and Oceania
Milvus aegyptius Yellow-billed kite sub-Saharan Africa (including Madagascar), except for the Congo Basin (with intra-African migrations)

Allozyme data indicates that the genetic diversity in both black and red kites is rather low.[5] 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 separate species, as indicated by mtDNA phylogeny showing two supported clades,[6] biogeography,[7] and morphology.[7] 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,[6] 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.


  1. ^ Lacépède, Bernard Germain de (1799). "Tableau des sous-classes, divisions, sous-division, ordres et genres des oiseux". Discours d'ouverture et de clôture du cours d'histoire naturelle (in French). Paris: Plassan. p. 4. Page numbering starts at one for each of the three sections.
  2. ^ Mayr, Ernst; Cottrell, G. William, eds. (1979). Check-List of Birds of the World. Vol. 1 (2nd ed.). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Museum of Comparative Zoology. p. 296.
  3. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 255. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  4. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David; Rasmussen, Pamela, eds. (August 2022). "Hoatzin, New World vultures, Secretarybird, raptors". IOC World Bird List Version 12.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 6 December 2022.
  5. ^ Schreiber, Arnd; Stubbe, Michael & Stubbe, Annegret (2000): Red kite (Milvus milvus) and black kite (M. migrans): minute genetic interspecies distance of two raptors breeding in a mixed community (Falconiformes: Accipitridae). Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 69'(3): 351–365. doi:10.1006/bijl.1999.0365 (HTML abstract)
  6. ^ a b Johnson, Jeff A.; Rick T. Watson, and David P. Mindell (7 July 2005). Prioritizing species conservation: does the Cape Verde kite exist?. Proc Biol Sci. (The Royal Society) 272 (7): 1365–1371. [1]
  7. ^ a b Scheider, Jessica; Wink, Michael; Stubbe, Michael; Hille, Sabine; Wiltschko, Wolfgang (2004). "Phylogeographic Relationships of the Black Kite Milvus migrans" (PDF). In Chancellor, R. D.; Meyburg, B.-U. (eds.). Raptors Worldwide: Proceedings of the VI World Conference on Birds of Prey and Owls. Budapest, Hungary: MME/BirdLife Hungary. pp. 467–472. ISBN 978-963-86418-1-6.