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Milvus is a genus of medium-sized birds of prey. It is an Old World group consisting of three kites which form part of the subfamily Milvinae. Its systematics are under revision; it contains 3-4 species.

Allozyme data indicates that the genetic diversity in both Black and Red Kites is rather low (Schreiber et al. 2000). Successful hybridization between Milvus kites is fairly commonplace, making mtDNA analyses unreliable to resolve the genus' phylogeny. Furthermore, there is no good correlation between molecular characters and biogeography and morphology in the Red Kite due to very incomplete lineage sorting.

The Yellow-billed Kite is apparently a good species, as indicated by mtDNA phylogeny, biogeography, and morphology. The Black-eared Kite is somewhat distinct morphologically, but is better considered a well-marked parapatric subspecies. The status of the Cape Verde Kite is in doubt; while not a completely monophyletic lineage according to mtDNA data, it is still best regarded as a distinct species. Whatever its status, this population is extinct.

A prehistoric kite from the Early Pleistocene (1.8 million - 780,000 years ago) deposits at 'Ubeidiya (Israel) was described as Milvus pygmaeus.


  • Crochet, Pierre-André (2005): Recent DNA studies of kites. Birding World 18(12): 486-488. HTML section list
  • Schreiber, Arnd; Stubbe, Michael & Stubbe, Annegret (2000): Red kite (Milvus milvus) and black kite (M. migrans): minute genetic interspecies distance of two raptors breeding in a mixed community (Falconiformes: Accipitridae). Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 69'(3): 351–365. (HTML abstract)

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