Scissor-tailed Kite Chelictinia riocourii


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). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be small, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification
A single roost of 36,000 birds was reported from Senegal in 2008 and a further 10,000 birds at a roost in Mali in 2012 (Kemp et al. 2014). This equates to approximately 24,000 and 6,700 mature individuals respectively. The population is therefore placed in the band 5,000-25,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be in decline owing to improved locust control measures and use of pesticides (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001).


Behaviour The species is distributed across the breadth of the Afrotropics, but in a narrow band largely confined to 15°N to 8°N (with extreme occurrence as much as 19°N in West Africa to 1°S in Kenya). It breeds within the Sahel zone and there is a small resident population in northern Kenya and Uganda (Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001).  It is migratory, moving south (albeit remaining in the northern hemisphere) in November after breeding, coinciding with the start of the dry season. It returns north when the rains begin in February and the overall extent of migration fluctuates annually (del Hoyo et al., 1994). Habitat The species occupies arid savannah and semi-desert habitats from sea level up to 500m (Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001). Diet Its main prey comprises reptiles such as lizards and snakes, insects and spiders, and occasionally small rodents. It gregarious and will gather in groups at the edge of grass fires to capture Orthoptera or near cattle herds to capture insects (Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001; del Hoyo et al., 1994). Breeding Site The species constructs small stick nests (30-40cm diameter) in thorn trees often near to the nests of larger raptors such as Secretarybird and Snake-eagle and sometimes also close to human settlement. Breeding occurs in May to September in the majority of its range, but in Senegal it occurs from December to February and in Kenya from March to June or from August onwards (Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001).


The species has declined over West Africa since the 1970s as a result of locust control, and it is vulnerable to pesticides. Given its reliance on the Sahel zone it is likely to be vulnerable to the on-going deterioration of this environment (del Hoyo et al. 1994, Ferguson- Lees and Christie 2001). Threats to birds breeding in the Sahel include cultivation, wood harvesting and overgrazing (Buij et al. 2013). Tourists and naturalists visiting a large roost site at l'Ile de Kousmar in Senegal may cause disturbance (Pilard et al. 2011).


Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Harding, M. & Ashpole, J

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Chelictinia riocourii. Downloaded from on 04/08/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 04/08/2020.