Coast KZN

23 Aug 2021

Migratory birds back in Richards Bay

Tamlyn Jolly (Zululand Observer) Picture: Mike's Birds/Flickr. Yellow-billed kites are often seen along Zululand's beaches

Zululand birders and twitchers would by now have seen their first yellow-billed kite of the season, signifying warmer weather to come. One of the most common birds of prey, the yellow-billed kite is an intra-African breeding migrant, meaning it migrates within the continent.

Spending the months of August – March in South Africa, they are thought to head to Sudan and neighbouring countries where they spend the South African winter months, from April – July. They are usually first seen inland of Durban, around the Tala Valley, in the first week of August, making their way to coastal regions where they are usually spotted in the second or third weeks of August.

A medium-sized bird of prey, the yellow-billed kite generally measures about 55 cm in height with a wingspan of up to 1.5 m. The bird’s average weight is usually around 1 kg. It’s a distinctive raptor, with its yellow beak – hence the name – and its V-shaped tail which acts as a rudder of sorts, twisting to assist the bird in positioning itself in the air while hovering and gliding as it looks for food.

Usually solo birds, the yellow-billed kite is known to be gregarious at certain times of year, for instance in game reserves during the impala lambing season where they are seen congregating in numbers. Opportunistic scavengers, these raptors are often seen hovering above the road, swooping down to pick up roadkill.

They have also been seen stealing fish from the claws and beaks of other birds of prey, like woolly-necked storks and even ospreys.