The Pearl Kite, Gampsonyx swainsonii, is a very small raptor found in open savanna habitat adjacent to deciduous woodland. It is the only member of the genus Gampsonyx.
This tiny kite breeds from Panama, Colombia and Venezuela south to Bolivia and northern Argentina, with an isolated sedentary population in Nicaragua. It is expanding its range and was proved to breed on Trinidad in 1970. It is expected to reach Costa Rica in the near future.
The nest is a deep cup of sticks built high in a tree. The clutch is 2-4 brown-marked white eggs, incubated mainly by the female for 34-35 days to hatching, with a further 5 weeks to fledging. There may be two broods in a season.
The Pearl Kite is 20.3-23 cm in length and weighs 80-95 g, and is the smallest raptor in the Americas. The adult has a black crown, upperparts, wing and tail, a rufous edged white collar, yellow forehead and cheeks, mainly white underparts, and yellow legs. Immature birds are similar to the adults but have white and chestnut tips to the back and wing feathers, a buff collar and some buff on the white underparts. In flight this species looks mainly black above and white below.
The northern form G. s. leonae differs from the nominate G. s. swainsonii in that it has rufous flanks.
The Pearl Kite feeds mainly on lizards, especially Anolis, but also takes small birds and insects; it usually sits on an open high perch from which it swoops on its prey. The call is a high musical pip-pip-pip-pip or kitty-kitty-kitty.
The scientific name commemorates the English naturalist William Swainson.