Whistling kite
Whistling kite

Briggsy’s Birds: A hunter with very keen eyesight

The whistling kite is a very common bird of prey that cruises the sky looking for mice, small birds, lizards, insects such as grasshoppers and dead animals on the ground or in the trees below.

It has amazing eyesight that is up to eight times better than that of a human. Their large eyes are part of the reason and they can see medium sized prey up to a kilometre away.

Both sexes are similar but the female is larger. When they are flying the underside of the wings have a pale M- shaped pattern that is distinctive, and a rounded tail. The similar black kite has a forked tail and the shape of the tail is the best way to distinguish them from each other.

They get their name from the whistle-like call which can be heard far away. Pairs mate for life and build a large nest of sticks in a tall tree that is often re-used year after year.

The female does most of the incubating of the eggs but both parents feed the chicks.

They may also breed two to three times a year when food is plentiful.

Like the black kite, the whistling kite will visit abattoirs, rubbish dumps and roadsides looking for an easy meal and sometimes large numbers can be seen flying above these locations. Road kill such as a kangaroos are dangerous places to have a meal because the kite can be hit and killed by a car.

Like other birds of prey, one of their functions is to clean up the carcasses of dead animals and is why you very rarely see the body of a bird or animal on the ground.

Allan Briggs is the secretary of BirdLife Capricornia. Contact him with you questions at abriggs@irock.com.au.



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