General

Yellow Billed Kite – Bird That Loves Chickens

The yellow billed kite is a native African species; a medium sized raptor found in most of Africa, except for the driest part of the continent, and some parts of central Africa. People of West Africa often think that this bird of prey belongs to their region, but in truth it is found almost throughout the continent, and even beyond.

It is quite an abundant species, and when grouped (erroneously) with the black kite, it becomes probably the most successful bird of prey in the world.

But it is that success that is the whole problem. Especially in West Africa, this bird has become well known for preying on poultry. In fact, it has become quite notorious for its preference of chicken and other ground dwelling birds.

Yellow Billed Kite – How To Identify It

The easiest way to identify this bird is by its forked tail. This is the bird that you can most likely see soaring around in circles. Its wings spread out, ending in extended feathers – usually five or six on each side.

It is only when one has the opportunity to look closer that one may see the yellow bill, which may even be black in immature birds.

The feathers are usually brown or a mixture of brown and black.

When Is It Present?

In West Africa, the yellow billed kite is usually present around December to April. From May to November the bird is usually in the southern part of the continent, where it breeds. Of course, birds don’t have a written timetable, and so they could leave earlier or stay longer.

The major thing to keep in mind is that the bird avoids the rainy season in West Africa (May – October), and also avoids the rainy season in southern Africa (October to April). Therefore it is an intra-African migrant; available when the weather is dry.

It is important to note that it is present in West Africa, east Africa, and some parts of central Africa, as well as India, china, and Indonesia among other places.

What It Does Where It Is Present

The yellow billed kite has had a strange adaptation from its closely related species – the black kite. It has decided to be an eater of chicken. Yes, small chicks (from a few days old to a few weeks old) now constitute its primary diet.

This is a marked difference from the black kite, which several trusted sources describe as having a diet primarily consisting of small mammals and reptiles, including birds. Yes, birds would also include chickens, ducks, turkeys, and other domestic foul, but no, they would not be its main dietary focus.

This is where the concern comes in; it appears that at least when they are in West Africa, the yellow billed kite has developed a taste for poultry. Observation suggests that individuals repeatedly visit poultry houses, and other places where they know that poultry are available.

What To Do About Yellow Billed Kites Stealing Chickens

Drive Them With Sound

Observations have shown that these birds respond to sound. Loud noises will scare them away. Noises like clanging metals have been noted to be very good at driving away yellow billed kites. Furthermore, they soon notice that the humans are alert, and that the purpose of the noise is to protect the poultry.

Keep Chickens In Protected Area

Free range may be the easiest and most cost effective way of keeping chickens, but it is also the least protected way. Therefore, it may be helpful to keep the chickens in an enclosure, at least from December to April in West and East Africa, and from May to November in southern Africa.

Releasing the poultry again after the kites have left will probably make it a mixture between free range and enclosed chicken farming, but the results can be encouraging.

Keep Small Chicks In Cages/Enclosures

Since the Yellow Billed Kite preys on small chicks, then farmers should keep them in safe enclosures until about the third month when they can be released into the free range area.

Typically, these birds do not prey on bigger chickens – perhaps because they are not so easy to carry off.

Use Scare Crows

Scare Crows can be effective but there should be some modifications. The scare crows should move with the wind – giving the impression of a human in motion. Furthermore, they can be fitted with bells which will produce sound; which is further reason for the kites flee.

Further Reading

The yellow billed kite is one of the most successful girds in Africa – because it is adaptive. These birds play an important role in the ecosystem, and as such they must be protected. In order to do so, they must not be vilified, so that it does become a victim of extreme action which has characterized human behavior in the past.

Simply following the steps highlighted here can go a long way to reduce the impact of their preying on chickens.

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