The Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus) gets their name from its loud whistling call that starts from a clear whistle, then descends down the scale, and is followed by an up-scale staccato chatter.
It is a medium-sized diurnal (day time) raptor that is found throughout Australia, New Caledonia and parts of New Guinea. The female are larger and heavier in build to the male, whilst southern birds are larger then those in the tropics.
When at rest it has a scruffy appearance to its gingery-brown feathers, with the adult birds having a pale buff to rufous markings on the head, neck, breast and tail, and with brown coloured wings and black flight feathers, a mix of dark and pale brown feathers, as well as a long rounded tail.
The underwings have a distinctive underwing pattern, with the characteristic pale ‘M’ shape and so called white “windows” when open. At a distance they can appear almost black.
In overall appearance, the whistling kite looks small-headed and long-tailed, and when perched, the wing tips fall short of the tail tip. When in flight, the Whistling Kite soar on slightly bowed wings and often their long flight feathers are splayed open.
Whistling Kites prey on small vertebrates and invertebrates such as small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, crustaceans, fish and insects. They are also known to feed on carrion. They are known to forage by quartering (a hunting technique where a bird flies slowly just above the ground or water in open habitats) and soaring high, hovering briefly before dropping down onto their prey.
Images © Dorothy L
They are monogamous birds that breed usually between July to December. The nest is a platform made of sticks lined with green leaves and placed high in the fork of a tree. They lay between one to four eggs.
Check out our images of a juvenile Whistling Kite by Dorothy L.
Also known as the Whistling Eagle, Whistling Hawk, Kite Hawk, Chicken Hawk
- Scientific classification
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Aves
- Order: Accipitriformes
- Family: Accipitridae
- Genus: Haliastur
- Species: H. sphenurus
- Binomial name: Haliastur sphenurus