Black Kite Milvus migrans


Justification of Red List category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (extent of occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over 10 years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in 10  years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification
In Europe, the breeding population is estimated to number 186,000-254,000 breeding pairs, equating to 372,000-507,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International in prep.). Europe forms approximately 9% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 4,100,000-5,600,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed. It is placed in the band 4,000,000-5,700,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
Despite being possibly the most common raptor in the world, the population has declined owing to poisoning, shooting, pollution of water and over-use of pesticides. Modernisation of urban environments and agricultural improvements are also thought to be causing declines locally (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). However, in Europe the current population trend is stable or increasing in the three countries with the largest populations (over 90% of the total in the European Union) (BirdLife International in prep.). Outside Europe the overall trend is suspected to be overall stable: it is stable in India (State of India's Birds 2020), and has been increasing in Australia (Global Raptor Information Network 2015), but suspected to be declining in China and possible elsewhere in Asia (Global Raptor Information Network 2015).

Distribution and population

Very widely distributed, breeding from Australia to Spain and Morocco, with the northern extent of migratory breeders extending to northern Russia and Mongolia. Migratory over much of the Eurasian range, predominately wintering in sub-Saharan Africa. Present year-round in the Indian subcontinent eastwards through Myanmar, Lao PDR, Viet Nam, Cambodia and northern Thailand, China, the Republic of Korea, DPR Korea and far south eastern Russia; also Japan, Sulawesi and the Lesser Sundas (Indonesia), Papua New Guinea and Australia. Birds are seen on passage through central and southern Thailand and the Malaysian Peninsular, indicating that a proportion of birds in the eastern range are also migratory.


Behaviour The species is mainly migratory, with birds from Europe and northern Asia wintering in sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia. Those at lower latitudes do not tend to be full migrants (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Migrating birds leave their breeding grounds between July and October, arriving back between February and May (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). It is generally a gregarious species, with birds often roosting communally and migrating in scattered flocks (del Hoyo et al. 1994; Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001).
It is found ubiquitously throughout habitats, although avoiding dense woodland, and is recorded foraging up to 4,000 m in the Himalayas (del Hoyo et al. 1994).
An extremely versatile feeder, it takes carrion as well as live birds, mammals, fish, lizards, amphibians and invertebrates, and is even known to forage on vegetable matter such as palm oil fruits; human refuse has become a plentiful food source in many areas (del Hoyo et al. 1994).
Breeding site
The nest is usually built on the fork or branch of a tree (del Hoyo et al. 1994).
Management information
The species has become highly commensal with people and thrives in human-dominated environments, but modernisation of cities appears to reduce its breeding success (del Hoyo et al. 1994; Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001).


The species has suffered historically as a result of poisoning, shooting and the pollution of water by pesticides and other chemicals (David et al. 2021). Agricultural pesticide poisoning caused its extirpation as a breeder in Israel in the 1950s; it has since recolonised (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Carcass poisoning and water pollution continues to drive declines in Europe and parts of Asia. Accumulation of heavy metals in the food chain can have sub-lethal effects (Carneiro et al. 2018).
Whilst it is well-suited to the presence of humans, particularly in terms of its diet, the modernisation of cities has been shown to reduce available habitat, with overall Black Kite populations showing declines through the 20th century in Delhi and Istanbul (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). It is very highly vulnerable to the effects of potential wind energy development (STRIX 2012). Black Kites are also susceptible to electrocution by power lines (e.g. Dixon et al. 2013; Barbazyuk et al. 2021). 

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. CMS Appendix II. Raptors MOU Category 2. Annexe II of the Bern Convention. Annexe II of the Bonn Convention. Included in Annexe I of the EU Bird Directive. Across Europe, there are 2,476 Natura 2000 sites for this species. Breeding is currently being monitored in 10 European countries (Derlink et al. 2018), and has previously been recorded in 31 monitoring schemes (ibid).

Conservation Actions Needed
Stricter legislation against poisoning, shooting and pollution should be developed and enforced. Assess current utility lines and retrofit to reduce electrocution risk where necessary. 


Text account compilers
Murray-Watson, R., Martin, R.

Ashpole, J, Calvert, R. & Khwaja, N.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Milvus migrans. Downloaded from on 28/09/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 28/09/2023.