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Brahminy Kite
Haliastur indus

Status: Lower risk

Population Trend: Stable.

Other Names: Chestnut-white Kite, Red-backed Kite, Rufous Eagle, Rufous-backed Kite, White and Red Eagle-kite, White-headed Fish Eagle, White-headed Kite, White-headed Sea-eagle.

Haliastur indus
click to enlarge
Distribution: Australasian/Indomalayan/Palearctic. Indian subcontinent (except for dry northwest) to southern CHINA south through Southeast Asia, Malay Peninsula, PHILIPPINES, SULAWESI, SOLOMON ISLANDS, SUNDAS, and NEW GUINEA to AUSTRALIA. more....

Subspecies: 4 races. H. i. flavirostris: SOLOMON ISLANDS; H. i. girrenera: MOLUCCAS, NEW GUINEA, Bismarck Archipelago, and AUSTRALIA; H. i. indus: PAKISTAN, INDIA, and SRI LANKA through southeastern ASIA to southern CHINA; H. i. intermedius: Malay Peninsula, GREATER and LESSER SUNDAS, SULAWESI, PHILIPPINES, and SULA ISLANDS.

Taxonomy: Placed in the genus Milvus by Amadon (1978), and a close relationship between that genus and Haliastur was supported by the syringeal morphology study of Griffiths (1994) and the mitochondrial cytochrome b studies of Wink and Sauer-Gürth (2000, 2004), who regarded Haliastur as a closely related sister group to Milvus. However, the molecular studies of Lerner and Mindell (2005) did not support such an arrangement, and they thought that this genus shares a sister relationship with the sea eagles, Haliaeetus.

Movements: Partial migrant, with juveniles dispersing from the breeding areas (Bildstein 2006). Individuals arriving in Torres Strait in winter are probably dispersing juveniles (Draffon et al. 1983).

Habitat and Habits: In Australia, it occurs in coastal areas, estuaries, wetlands, rivers, swamps, and clearings, often hunting over forest canopy (Debus 1998). Coates (1985) described the preferred habitat in New Guinea as the vicinity of water, including coastal areas, swamps, and rivers, and forest clearings, forest edges, gardens, and savanna. Patrols coastlines, roads, and rivers (Coates and Bishop 1997). When it is not soaring, it spends its time on exposed perches in trees. Usually occurs singly or in pairs, but also in small family groups. It does not usually form large flocks like some kite species (Olsen 1995), although it sometimes roosts communally, rarely in groups reaching three figures (Wells 1999). more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Has a diverse diet, including small birds, fish, and insects, which it snatches from the surface of water or from foliage (Coates 2001). Soars low, searching mudflats, beaches, and harbors for small prey and scraps, exposed or washed up by the tide, which it snatches in flight (Olsen 1995) and often eats directly, while soaring. Regularly scavenges around harbors and trash dumps (Coates and Bishop 1997). It is attracted to grassland fires, taking easily caught prey such as young birds, amphibians, and carrion, including floating or stranded fish and snakes, and it also kleptoparasitizes conspecifics and other raptors up to the size of White-bellied Fish Eagles (Wells 1999). In New Guinea, it regularly hunts over rainforest (Beehler et al. 1986).more....

Breeding: Pairs nest solitarily, although adjacent pairs may be only 100 m apart in different trees (Wells 1999). The nest is a large platform of sticks lined with twigs, bark, leaves, and dung, and placed 2-30 m above the ground in a prominent fork of a tall tree, usually on a forested slope providing a view of the surroundings (Debus 1998, Kennedy et al. 2000). In Malaysia, nests are lined with a pan of dry mud (Wells op cit.). The same nests are used in successive years and become larger with the addition of new material. Clutch size is 1-3 eggs, which are white with small brown spots. Incubation lasts about 35 days, and the nestling period is 50-56 days (Debus 1998). Usually, only one young fledges, but sometimes there are successful broods of two or three. The period of dependence after fledging lasts up to two months (Debus 1op cit.). more....

Conservation: Generally common throughout its extensive range. Categorized globally as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International (2009). more....

Important References: 
Coates, B.J. 1985. The birds of Papua New Guinea, including the Bismarck
  Archipelago and Bougainville. Vol. I. Non-passerines. Dove Publications,
  Alderley, Queensland, Australia.
Debus, S.J.S. 1994. Brahminy Kite. P. 119 in del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott, and
  J. Sargatal (eds.), Handbook of birds of the world. Vol. 2. New World
  vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Debus, S. 1998. The birds of prey of Australia: a field guide. Oxford
  University Press, Melbourne.
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Marchant, S., and P. Higgins (eds.). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand,
  and Antarctic birds. Vol. 2. Raptors to lapwings. Oxford University Press,
  Melbourne, Australia.
Naoroji, R. 2006. Birds of prey of the Indian subcontinent. Christopher
  Helm, London.
Olsen, P. 1995. Australian birds of prey. John Hopkins University Press,
  Baltimore, MD.
Wells, D.R. 1999. The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula, covering Burma
  and Thailand south of the eleventh parallel, Peninsular Malaysia and
  Singapore. Volume One. Non-passerines. Academic Press, San Diego, CA.

Sites of Interest:
Brahminy Kite photos.

Balakrishnan, Peroth
Purwanto, Asman Adi
Rangasamy, Dhanapal
Sharma, Manoj
Soni, Hiren

Last modified: 5/27/2010

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2021. Species account: Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 18 May. 2021

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