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The Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus) is a medium size bird that can be found across Australia, especially open woodlands and plains. In arid regions of central Australia they are seen around desert woodlands and along desert rivers.

They prey on small mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians, fish, crustaceans and insects. They are also commonly seen scavenging on roadkill.

They have a light brown head and belly, including features that are a mix of dark and pale brown, with rufous markings on the head, neck and underparts. They have a long rounded tail and when at rest can appear to have a scruffy appearance. The underwings have a characteristic pale ‘M’ shape when open. At a distance they can appear appear almost black.

Images © Dorothy L

Also known as the whistling eagle, whistling hawk, kite hawk and chicken hawk, they get their name from its loud whistling call that starts from a clear whistle, that begin by descending down the scale, and followed by an up-scale staccato chatter.

The females are slightly larger than males with a wing span of up to 120 cm. Breeding season is between February and May. They build their nests in tall eucalypt trees, laying clutches from one to four eggs. Incubated for approximately 35 days, they care for the chick until the young can fly.


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  • Scientific classification
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Accipitriformes
  • Family: Accipitridae
  • Genus: Haliastur
  • Species: H. sphenurus
  • Binomial name: Haliastur sphenurus

Footnote & References

  1. Whistling Kite, Northern Territory Government of Australia, https://nt.gov.au/environment/animals/wildlife-in-nt/whistling-kite
  2. Whistling Kite, eBird, https://ebird.org/species/whikit1?siteLanguage=en_AU
  3. Black Kite (Milvus migrans), Society for the Preservation of Raptors (Inc), http://www.raptor.org.au/mmigrans.html