The Double-Toothed Kite (Harpagus bidentatus)


Time for some more information on a past #BeakoftheWeek star, the double-toothed kite.

Now everyone loves a kite, both the kind you run around with on a sunny day and the ones you see soaring overhead in places like Hertfordshire.  We often see red kites hovering around the museum in Tring during our breaks.  The double-toothed kite is something special however…

They are named for after the presence of two tomial “teeth” on the edge of their upper mandible.  Their wingspan reaches around 65cm and they are 29-35cm tall. Females are slightly bigger than males at 190-229g (males 161-198g).

Double-toothed kite. You can just about make out the teeth in this photo.

Double-toothed kite. You can just about make out the teeth in this photo.

When hunting this species uses a clever trick of following monkeys through the canopy waiting for them to disturb insects and lizards, which they will then catch and eat.  A nice way of getting someone else to work for your dinner.  It is seemingly a parasitic relationship as there is no apparent benefit to the monkeys, although the presence of this kite may help protect them against larger birds of prey.  They have a preference for monkeys that tend to move extensively whilst foraging instead of sitting idly for long period, which makes sense if they are hoping they will flush out tasty treats.  They are also known to eat snakes, birds and rodents amongst others.  Unfortunately I cannot find a video of this interesting behaviour.

Here is a nice, if old, paper on the association between this species and white-faced capuchin monkeys.

This species has a large range, stretching from southern Mexico through much of northern south America. Its breeding season varies across the range but tends to be between April and July. The female is thought to incubate and brood the chicks alone although the male provides much of the food during incubation and early nestling period.  The female carries out the lions share of nest construction, building a nest out of twigs in the fork of a tree between 7 and 33m from the ground. Females typically lay 2 eggs which take 42-45 days to hatch and then the chicks usually leave the nest after 27-31 days.  Within two months the young are independent of their parents.

You can once again head straight over to Xeno Canto to complete your experience with some bird of prey calls.


BirdLife International (2015) Species factsheet: Harpagus bidentatus. Downloaded from on 09/07/2015.

Bierregaard, R.O., Jr, Marks, J.S. & Kirwan, G.M. (2015). Double-toothed Kite (Harpagus bidentatus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.) (2015). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 9 July 2015).

. 2010. Double-toothed Kite (Harpagus bidentatus), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online:

Images and videos

Double toothed kite” by joule_e is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Victor castro. 2012. Double-toothed Kite (Harpagus bidentatus) . [Online]. [09/07/2015]. Available from: