Birda Logo
Species Guide

Slender-billed Kite

Helicolestes hamatus

The Slender-billed Kite, Helicolestes hamatus, is a bird of prey with a graceful slaty gray plumage. It boasts broad, rounded wings and a short, square tail. This species measures between 36 to 41 centimeters in length and has a wingspan of approximately 80 to 90 centimeters. Both sexes are similar in appearance, but females are generally larger, weighing between 367 and 485 grams, while males range from 377 to 448 grams. They are characterized by a sharp black beak, designed for their specialized diet, and sharp black talons. Their eyes are a striking yellowish hue, and they have orange-red faces and legs. Juvenile birds are similar to adults but can be identified by their brownish eyes and three narrow white bands on their tails.

Identification Tips

To distinguish the Slender-billed Kite from its relatives, note its yellow eyes, which contrast with the red eyes of the male Snail Kite. It also has a shorter tail and more slender beak than the Snail Kite. When observing nestlings, one can see that the Slender-billed Kite's young already resemble the adult plumage more closely than do the Snail Kite's nestlings.


This kite is found in forested regions of tropical northern and central South America, as well as the far eastern parts of Panama. It prefers the flooded forests and wetland areas where its prey, aquatic snails, are abundant.


The Slender-billed Kite has a scattered range across its preferred habitats in South America, including Colombia, Venezuela, the Guianas, the Amazon rainforest, and Brazil.


The Slender-billed Kite is often seen perched on low branches, scanning for prey. It dives to snatch snails with its talons and uses its hooked beak to extract them from their shells. During the breeding season, males court females by presenting and feeding them snails bill-to-bill.

Song & Calls

The primary call of the Slender-billed Kite is a nasal "kee-ee-aay-aay-aay," starting with a sharp rise in frequency followed by a steady decline. This call is typically heard in flight or as a response to predators. Another call, a repeating "ker-ah" with oscillating frequency, is heard as the bird approaches its mate at the nest.


Breeding occurs in trees 9 to 20 meters high in areas prone to flooding during the wet season, typically from June to October. The nesting period spans 98 to 112 days, with usually two eggs laid and an incubation period of 30 days. Chicks can stand at two weeks and fly by 40 days. Parents feed the chicks snail pieces bill-to-bill until they are 7 weeks old.

Diet and Feeding

The Slender-billed Kite's diet primarily consists of aquatic snails, particularly from the genus Pomacea. They also hunt for crabs, such as Poppiana dentata. They are adept at removing the operculum and extracting the snail from its shell, and they tend to select smaller snails than the Snail Kite.

Conservation status

The Slender-billed Kite is currently listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, indicating that it is not at immediate risk of widespread decline.

App logo
Birda is a birdwatching app and community aimed at curious people who want to deepen their connection with nature.

Slender-billed Kites on Birda


More Kites, Hawks, Eagles

A photo of a Shikra (Accipiter badius)


Accipiter badius
Birda Logo

Your birdwatching journey like never before

Connect with nature in minutes
Take a walk, look out of the window and log the birds that you see. Feel good about those little connections to nature.
Discover the joy of birding
Find new birding spots, see more birds, share and celebrate with a like-minded community of nature lovers.
Play your part in saving nature
Logging your birding sightings and sessions turns into positive action for our planet. Every sighting counts.

Birda Blog

What Our Birders Say
Awesome App
I really enjoy using this app! It is such a friendly community of bird-lovers who are happy to help if I need ID advice. It’s been great motivation to get outdoors and go birding more! 10/10 😍😍
Great app for beginner twitchers
I’ve had a passion of photographing birds for a long time now but have only just gotten into proper birdwatching, and this app is brilliant for those just getting started. There is a great sense of community among users and the app is very easy to use and professional. Awesome app altogether
Jake W
Great app
I use this app all the time as it’s quick and easy to log individual sightings or whole birding sessions. It’s an excellent way to meet new people and the forum is full of really friendly people. The challenges are a great way to get involved and learn more about birds. Cannot recommend it enough!
Loving it
I really enjoy being able to interact with other birders on this platform! This seems like a great way to meet other birders and find some new spots.
Fantastic app - Love it!
Love this app and have used it almost daily. Lots of species information and easy to use. Love seeing birds spotted by other users in the UK and worldwide.
We've been waiting for an App like this
Excellent! We've been waiting for an app like this! Thank you! It would be nice if you could assign additional birds to sessions later!
Such a great app!
I didn’t think I could enjoy birding more but this app makes it so much better. Some great features and a really great way to share your sightings with your friends or fellow birders nearby or around the world! ❤️
Robred 2
Fun way to add to your birdwatching experience
I enjoy watching birds in my backyard, but this app helped me really pay attention while on vacation this summer. It was fun to add new birds to my bird watching app.
Patricia L
Very encouraging birding app
Easy to use, fun to see progress and encouraging to receive feedback from other users.
Great app for learning Birds
I’ve been using the app for a couple of months and love it....Someone said it’s like a real life Pokémon Go for birds. They’re not far off! It’s something that the family can do that gets you out and about. Well worth downloading no matter your age.
As featured in
AboutPressAmbassadorsAffiliatesInfluencersCareersPrivacyTerms & Conditions
An app for birdwatchers
Giving back
Connect with us
Copyright © 2024 Chirp Birding. All rights reserved.