Whistling Kite

Quick Facts

Length: 55 cm
Height: -
Weight: 770 grams
Colour: Sandy brown wings, light brown head and underparts
Habitat: Woodlands, open country and favours wetlands
Food: Carrion (dead prey), small live mammals, birds, fish and insects
Predators: -
Status: Secure in all states and territories except for Tasmania - not present
Whistling Kite
Whistling Kite

The Whistling Kite is a medium-sized bird of prey (raptor) with a shaggy appearance. It has a light brown head and underparts, with pale streaks, and dark sandy-brown wings with paler undersides. The underwings have a characteristic pale 'M' shape when open.
The head and body are relatively narrow and the tail is rounded. The wings are long and well-rounded, with a wingspan of 120 cm to 145 cm. The sexes are similar, but the females are larger. Young birds are slightly darker above, with paler streaking on the head and underbody. They are often seen near water or around farms, soaring in a lazy circling flight pattern.

Several other birds of prey (raptors) may be confused with the Whistling Kite, including the Little Eagle, other kites and harriers. These can only be separated by factors such as flight silhouette and style and the overall body shape.

The Whistling Kite is widespread over mainland Australia but is uncommon in Tasmania.

The Whistling Kite is found in woodlands, open country and particularly wetlands. It is also common around farmland, vineyards and anywhere where carrion (dead animals) can be found (e.g. abattoirs, rubbish dumps and roadsides).

Partially migratory, but mostly resident in northern and western Australia.

Whistling Kites soar above the ground, trees and water to search for prey such as carrion (dead animals) and small live animals such as mammals, birds, fish and insects.

The Whistling Kite appears to be monogamous, with some breeding pairs remaining in a territory throughout the year and pairs actively defend the area around a nest. The Whistling Kite prefers tall trees for nesting. The bulky nest platform is built of sticks in a tall tree and may be reused, growing larger over time. Both sexes build the nest and incubate the eggs (the female does most of the incubation however) and may breed two or three times a year. The young stay with the parents after fledging for about six to eight weeks.

The Whistling Kite as been favoured by clearing to some extent as it does not enter dense forests, but it still needs remnant tall trees for nesting. Farmlands are useful hunting grounds and provide extra water sources. Road kill provides a good source of food. However, wetland destruction and drainage has affected populations in southern Australia.

Author: Rosalyn Plunkett
Last Updated: Sunday 14th July, 2013
BirdLife Australia - www.birdlife.org.au


Signup for our monthly newsletter the "e-Telegraph"