Elanoides forficatus

Status:   Rare casual summer visitor. Formerly regular breeder but extirpated around 1910.

Documentation:  Specimen: UNSM ZM14116, 8 Aug 1896 Cass Co (Eiche 1901).

Taxonomy:  There are two subspecies, forficatus of the southeastern United States and northeastern Mexico, and yetapa, from Mexico to northern Argentina (Gill and Donsker 2017). Forficatus is presumed to occur in Nebraska.

Summer: There are two modern records. The 2016 record was part of a northward influx onto the Great Plains, where there were records from most of the states around Nebraska.

26 May 2013 below Fort Falls, Cherry Co (Brogie 2014).

25 Jul 2016 Kearney, Buffalo Co (photo; Brogie 2017).

The specimen cited above, the male of a pair purportedly nesting near Greenwood (Eiche 1901), appears to be the last tangible Nebraska record prior to extirpation of the species, although Bruner et al (1904) considered it “a regular visitor in the eastern third of the state, not uncommon”. William Townsley was said to have shot one as it flew over his house in Harvard, Clay Co about 1910 (Swenk, Notes Before 1925). A pair was said by Aughey to have nested at least four consecutive years in a cottonwood tree at Badger Creek, Dixon Co (Taylor and Van Vleet 1888).

Wayne Mollhoff (personal communication) discovered a mounted specimen (Illinois State Museum #ISM-602715) taken at Fullerton, Nance Co in 1880, and there is a mounted specimen originally from the Townsley collection in the Draper Museum of Natural History in Cody, Wyoming. The latter specimen (DRA.304.17) was collected in Hamilton Co in  1884 (Bonnie Smith, personal communication).

Comments: Robertson (Palmer 1988) documented the extensive extirpation of this species in the last century, its range being reduced by some 80 percent.  No clear factors that led to this loss can be demonstrated.  However, Robertson does note a resurgence in numbers that was developing in the existing population by the late 1980s, and predicted a range expansion. In recent years Swallow-tailed Kites have indeed reappeared in the northern Great Plains.


NOURC: Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union Records Committee
UNSM: University of Nebraska State Museum


Photograph (top) of a Swallow-tailed Kite at Kearney, Buffalo Co 25 Jul 2016 by Dave Gleason.

Literature Cited

Brogie, M.A. 2017. 2016 (28th) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 85: 128-142.

Bruner, L., R.H. Wolcott, and M.H. Swenk. 1904. A preliminary review of the birds of Nebraska, with synopses. Klopp and Bartlett, Omaha, Nebraska, USA.

Eiche, A. 1901. Breeding of the Snowy Heron and Swallow-tailed Kite. Proceedings of Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union 2: 96.

Gill, F., and D. Donsker (Eds). 2017. IOC World Bird List (v 7.3), accessed 30 January 2018.

Palmer, R.S., ed. 1988. Handbook of North American birds. Vol. 4. Diurnal Raptors (Part 1). Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.

Swenk, M.H. Notes before 1925. Bird notes from A.M. Brooking of Hastings, C.A. Black of Kearney, and B.J. Olson of Kearney, based chiefly on their collections, up to January 1, 1925. Typed manuscript in the Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union Archives, University of Nebraska State Museum, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

Taylor, W.E., and A.H. Van Vleet. 1888. Notes on Nebraska birds. Ornithologist and Oologist. 13: 49-51.

Recommended Citation

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen. 2020. Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus). In Birds of Nebraska — Online. www.BirdsofNebraska.org

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 28 Mar 2020