Kites are an unique group of raptors that are sometimes grouped with Hawks. In the field it is helpful to separate kites into two groups based on wing shape: the paddle-winged and pointed-winged kites. The Swallow-tailed Kite, Mississippi Kite, and the White-tailed Kite are all considered pointed-winged kites, while the Snail Kite and the Hook-billed Kite are considered paddle-winged kites.
“Kite” comes from the old english word cyta, which was used to describe two old world raptors in the genus Milvus, or the Black and Red Kites. Toy kites made of wood and paper are actually named after the Milvus Kites. The five North American species of kite are so named due to their light and buoyant flight style. Kites prey on a variety of animals including snails, mice, and insects; kites also inhabit a wide range of habitats from grasslands to tropical marshlands.