It is a widespread species throughout the temperate and tropical parts of the Old World (including Europe, Asia, Japan, and all of Africa bar the Congo basin and the Sahara Desert), and Australasia. Curiously, it is not found in the island region between the South East Asian mainland and the Wallace Line.
European and central Asian birds (races M. m. milvus and M. m. lineatus respectively) are migratory, moving to the tropics in winter, but races such as the African M. m. parasiticus , the Indian M. m. govinda , and the Australasian M. m. affinis are resident.
In the northern winter, it is therefore common to have a resident race and a distinguishible migrant form present together in these hotter areas.
Black kites will take small live prey as well as fish and carrion.
This species can be distinguished from Red Kite by its slightly smaller size, less forked tail and generally dark plumage without any rufous.
This species nests in forest trees, often close to other kites. In winter, many kites will roost together.