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Whistling Kite
Haliastur sphenurus

Status: Lower risk

Population Trend: Stable.

Other Names: Carrion Hawk, Eagle Hawk, Whistling Eagle, Whistling Eagle-kite, Whistling Hawk.

Haliastur sphenurus
click to enlarge
Distribution: Australasian. AUSTRALIA, NEW CALEDONIA, eastern and southern NEW GUINEA, and Goodenough Island. more....

Subspecies: Monotypic.

Taxonomy: Placed in the genus Milvus by Amadon (1978), and a close relationship between that genus and Haliastur was was supported by the syringeal morphology study of Griffiths (1994) and by 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 (Bildstein 2006). Juveniles may disperse more than 2,000 km following fledging (Debus 1998). This species also undergoes movements in response to changes in rainfall. Baker-Gabb (1983) found that its numbers fluctuated in his study area in northwestern Victoria, but not according to any obvious seasonal pattern. more....

Habitat and Habits: Occurs around swamps, lakes, rivers, estuaries, coastlines, savanna woodland, and other open country, usually near water (Olsen 1995, Debus 1998, Coates 2001). Typically circles leisurely over woodlands, larger watercourses, swamps, and coastlines and occurs singly or in congregations, sometimes with Black Kites (Olsen op cit.). It forages by quartering or high soaring, and by waiting in trees beside water, especially at drying pools in creeks. It drops leisurely on prey, hawks flying insects, or snatches prey from water surfaces (Debus 1998). Large flocks (>30 birds) may congregate in areas with concentrated food sources (Gilliard and Lecroy 1966). more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Feeds on dead and live fish, mammals, birds, reptiles, crustaceans, insects, and carrion, including road-kills and large carcasses (Olsen 1995, Debus 1998). Sometimes pirates food from ibises and scavenges from fishermen (Olsen 1995), and it also patrols roads (especially early in the morning), fire fronts, and robs other raptors (Debus op cit.). more....

Breeding: Usually nests in riparian habitats (Cupper and Cupper 1981), less often in areas of lower precipitation (Baker-Gabb 1983). Pairs nest solitarily, building a bowl-shaped nest of sticks, which is placed 3-62 m above the ground in the fork of a live or dead tree (Debus 1998). The clutch size is usually 2 eggs, but ranges from one to four. The incubation period is about 35 days, and the nestling period is 44-54 days (Debus op cit.). The period of independence after fledging lasts up to two months. more....

Conservation: Common to abundant along coastlines throughout its range, where it has benefited from human activity (Debus 1998). Categorized globally as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International (2007). 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. Whistling 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.
Lerner, H.R.L., M.C. Klaver, and D.P. Mindell. 2008. Molecular
  phylogenetics of the buteonine birds of prey (Accipitridae). Auk
Lerner, H.R., and D.P. Mindell. 2005. Phylogeny of eagles, Old World
  vultures, and other Accipitridae based on nuclear and mitochondrial DNA.
  Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 37:327-346.
Olsen, P. 1995. Australian birds of prey. John Hopkins University Press,
  Baltimore, MD.
Wink, M., and H. Sauer-Gürth. 2004. Phylogenetic relationships in diurnal
  raptors based on nucleotide sequences of mitochondrial and nuclear marker
  genes. Pp. 483-498 in R.D. Chancellor and B.-U. Meyburg (eds.), Raptors
  worldwide. World Working Group on Birds of Prey, Berlin, and MME/BirdLife
  Hungary, Budapest.

Sites of Interest:
Whistling Kite photos.

Legra, Leo
Olsen, Jerry

Last modified: 6/5/2010

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2021. Species account: Whistling Kite Haliastur sphenurus. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 28 Nov. 2021

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