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First record of Yellow-billed Kite Milvus aegyptius for the Canary Islands and Macaronesia

  • Grupo de Ornitología e Historia Natural de las islas Canarias
  • Grupo de Ornitología e Historia Natural de las islas Canarias
First record of Yellow-billed Kite for Macaronesia: Rodríguez et al.
238 – Bull ABC Vol 28 No 1 (2021)
First record of Yellow-billed Kite Milvus aegyptius
for the Canary Islands and Macaronesia
Beneharo Rodríguez
, Felipe Siverio
and José Juan Hernández
Première mention du Milan d’Afrique Milvus aegyptius pour les Îles Canaries et la Macaronésie. Le 7
mars 2020 un Milan d’Afrique Milvus aegyptius a été photographié au sud de Tenerife, Îles Canaries. Il s’agit de
la première donnée pour l’archipel et pour la Macaronésie. L’arrivée de cette espèce a probablement été causée
par une violente tempête de sable qui a frappé les Îles Canaries les 22–25 février, durant laquelle des vents très
forts venant du sud-est ont provoqué l’arrivée d’un nombre sans précédent d’espèces occasionelles africaines.
Traditionally, five to eight subspecies of Black
Kite Milvus migrans have been recognised,
distributed across Eurasia, Africa, Australia, and
adjacent islands (Orta et al. 2020). The two rather
similar African subspecies, M. m. aegyptius and
M. m. parasitus, collectively known as Yellow-
billed Kite, have, in adults, narrower wings,
pointed wingtips, deeply forked tails and all-
yellow bills (Ferguson-Lees & Christie 2001,
Forsman 2016). Recent molecular studies, based
on mitochondrial haplotypes, suggest that these
two taxa should be treated as a separate species
or even as two different species (Johnson et al.
2005, Andreyenkova et al. 2019). Moreover,
other studies have indicated that parasitus is
phylogenetically closer to Red Kite M. milvus than
to Black Kite (Scheider et al. 2004). Here we follow
the IOC World Bird List (Gill et al. 2020), which
treats Yellow-billed Kite as a separate species M.
aegyptius, with two subspecies. Yellow-billed Kite
is a widespread resident and intra-African migrant
throughout sub-Saharan Africa to Madagascar
and related islands (parasitus), and in Egypt,
south-west Arabia and East Africa south to Kenya
(aegyptius) (Ferguson-Lees & Christie 2001,
Orta et al. 2020).
On 7 March 2020 at 10.10 hrs, JJH took
several photographs of a kite near the village
of Arico, in southern Tenerife, Canary Islands
(Figs. 1–3). He presumed it was a Black Kite,
a regular winter visitor and passage migrant
in the archipelago (Martín & Lorenzo 2001,
Clarke 2006, García-del-Rey 2018). However,
when he showed the photographs to BR & FS,
we realised that it appeared to be a Yellow-billed
Kite. We visited the area on the following days
but failed to relocate the bird, although at least
seven Black Kites were observed, and two of them
were photographed (Figs. 4–5). The following
description is therefore based on Figs. 1–3.
Although the general appearance recalls Red
Kite rather than Black Kite, some key features of
Figures 1–3. Adult Yellow-billed Kite Milvus aegyptius, Arico, Tenerife, Canary Islands, 7 March 2020
(José Juan Hernández)
Milan d’Afrique Milvus aegyptius, adulte, Arico, Tenerife, Îles Canaries, 7 mars 2020 (José Juan Hernández)
1 2 3
First record of Yellow-billed Kite for Macaronesia: Rodríguez et al.
Bull ABC Vol 28 No 1 (2021) – 239
adult Yellow-billed Kite are visible. Most striking
is the deeply forked tail and the five-fingered
hand, which eliminate Black Kite (Clark & Davies
2018). The bill seems to be all yellow, although
the possibility of some reflection means we cannot
be definitive on this point. The head is too dark
for an adult Black Kite, which is usually a subtle
hue of grey. The inner primaries are too dark
and uniform, lacking the typically contrasting
pale area and well-defined barring of Black Kite.
Finally, the iris appears too dark for an adult
Black Kite. Morphological differences between
parasitus and aegyptius are too subtle to permit
correct identification of the bird to subspecies
(Forsman 2016). However, given geographical
proximity, the bird was presumably a parasitus
(Orta et al. 2020).
The arrival of this bird on Tenerife was probably
caused by a severe sandstorm that affected the
Canary Islands on 22–25 February 2020. Strong
winds from the south-east, of more than 100
km/h at higher altitudes, triggered a haze intrusion
throughout the archipelago, with the most severe
visibility reductions since 1980 (Le Blancq 2020).
During this episode, an unprecedented arrival of
vagrant birds from Africa occurred, together with
large numbers of European migrants (pers. obs.).
There are no published records of this taxon
from the Cape Verde Islands (Hazevoet 1995,
2014), the Canary Islands (Martín & Lorenzo
2001, Clarke 2006, García-del-Rey & García-
Vargas 2013), the Madeira archipelago (Romano
et al. 2010) or the Azores (Barcelos et al. 2015).
In Morocco, there is just one record, in April
2008 (van den Berg 2009), with none for the
Atlantic Sahara (Bergier et al. 2017) or on the
Iberian Peninsula (de Juana & Garcia 2015,
Rouco et al. 2019). Consequently, this appears
to be the first record of this African raptor for
Macaronesia and probably the westernmost in the
Western Palearctic.
We are grateful to Rubén Barone, Domingo Trujillo
and Andrea Corso for their comments on the identity
of this bird. Dick Forsman, Bill Clark, Ron Demey and
Guy Kirwan confirmed the identification and / or made
useful comments on the submitted note.
Andreyenkova, N. G., Starikov, I. J., Wink, M.,
Karyakin, I. V., Andreyenkov, O. V. & Zhimulev,
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Gabriel, R. & Borges, P. 2015. Birds from the
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Figures 4–5. Adult Black Kites
Milvus migrans, Arico, Tenerife,
Canary Islands, 8 March 2020
(Beneharo Rodríguez)
Milans noirs Milvus migrans,
adultes, Arico, Tenerife,
Îles Canaries, 8 mars 2020
(Beneharo Rodríguez)
4 5
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Received 23 September 2020; revision accepted 2
November 2020.
... The first for the Canary Islands (and Spain) was recorded on Tenerife on 7 March 2020 (Rodríguez et al 2021). ...
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