Animal Species:Brahminy Kite

Brahminy Kites have weak feet so, although they have long, sharp curved claws, they cannot take large prey. However they are expert at snatching prey in flight.

Brahminy Kite

Jack Purnell © Australian Museum

Standard Common Name

Brahminy Kite

Alternative Name/s

Red-backed Sea Eagle, Rufous-backed Sea Eagle, White-headed Sea Eagle

Identification

The Brahminy Kite is one of the medium-sized raptors (birds of prey), with a white head and breast. The rest of its body is a striking chestnut brown. The very tip of its tail is white. The wings are broad, with dark 'fingered' wing tips and the tail is short. The legs are short and not feathered, the eye is dark and the lemon yellow coloured bill is strongly hooked. It sails on level wings along shorelines and mudflats.

Size range

45 cm to 51 cm

Similar Species

Whistling Kite, Little Eagle

Distribution

The Brahminy Kite is widespread across northern Australia, mainly along the coastline from Western Australia to northern New South Wales, and is more common in the north of its range. It is widespread throughout tropical Asia.

Habitat

The Brahminy Kite is a bird of the coast, particularly mangrove swamps and estuaries. It is sometimes seen over forests and along rivers.

Seasonality

The Brahminy Kite is mostly resident and possibly locally nomadic.

Feeding and Diet

The Brahminy Kite feeds on carrion (dead animals), insects and fish. It swoops low over water, the ground or tree tops and snatches live prey or carrion from the surface. It also steals from fish-hunting birds, snatching prey in flight. It harries or bothers other birds such as gulls, Whistling Kites, Osprey or Australian White Ibis.

Communication

Usually silent. Drawn-out descending wail, like a bleating lamb: 'pee-ah-ah-ah'; meowing notes.

Mating and reproduction

The nest of the Brahminy Kite is built in living trees near water, often mangrove trees. The nest is large, made from sticks, seaweed or driftwood and lined with a variety of materials such as lichens, bones, seaweed and even paper. Both parents incubate the eggs and the young are fed bill to bill with small pieces of food.

  • Breeding season: April to October
  • Clutch size: One to two
  • Incubation: 28 days
  • Time in nest: 52 days

Conservation Status

Brahminy Kites are secure in Australia. Being scavengers, they benefit from waste at tips, on roadsides and in harbours.

Classification

Species:
indus
Genus:
Haliastur
Family:
Accipitridae
Order:
Falconiformes
Class:
Aves
Kingdom:
Animalia

What does this mean?

References

  • Marchant, S. and Higgins, P.J. (eds) 1993. Handbook of Australian New Zealand And Antartic Birds Vol. 2: (Raptors To Lapwings). Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
  • Olsen, P., Crome, F. and Olsen, J. 1993. The Birds of Prey and Ground Birds of Australia. Angus and Robertson, and the National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife, Sydney.
  • Morcombe, M. 2000. Field guide to Australian Birds. Steve Parish Publishing.
  • Simpson, K and Day, N. 1999. Field guide to the birds of Australia, 6th Edition. Penguin Books, Australia.
  • Beruldsen, G 2003. Australian Birds: Their Nests and Eggs. Self-published, Queensland.
  • Hollands, D. 2003. Eagles Hawks and Falcons of Australia. Bloomings Books. Melbourne.


Judy Harrington
Last Updated:

Tags BIBY, bird, birds, brahminy kite, raptors, birds of prey, identification, Falconiformes, Accipitridae, Haliastur indus, vertebrate,