Whistling Kite

Calls
Loud descending whistle: 'teee-ti-ti'.
Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
No
Minimum Size: 
50cm
Maximum Size: 
60cm
Average size: 
55cm
Average weight: 
770g
Breeding season: 
July to January in south; March to October in north.
Clutch Size: 
One to three, usually two.
Incubation: 
38 days
Nestling Period: 
46 days
Conservation Status
Federal: 
NSW: 
NT: 
QLD: 
SA: 
VIC: 
WA: 
Basic Information
Scientific Name: 
Atlas Number: 
228
What does it look like?
Description: 

The Whistling Kite is a medium-sized raptor (bird of prey) with a shaggy appearance. It has a light brown head and underparts, with pale streaks, and dark sandy-brown wings with paler undersides. The underwings have a characteristic pale 'M' shape when open. The head and body are relatively narrow and the tail is rounded. The wings are long and well-rounded, with a wingspan of 120 cm to 145 cm. The sexes are similar, but the females are larger. Yong birds are slightly darker above, with paler streaking on head and underbody. They are often seen near water or around farms, soaring in a lazy circling flight pattern.

Similar species: 

Several other raptors may be confused with the Whistling Kite, including the Little Eagle, Hieraaetus morphnoides, other kites and harriers. These can only be separated by factors such as flight silhouette and style and the overall body shape.

Where does it live?
Distribution: 

The Whistling Kite is widespread over mainland Australia but uncommon in Tasmania, and is also found in New Guinea, the Solomons and New Caledonia.

Habitat: 

The Whistling Kite is found in woodlands, open country and particularly wetlands. It is also common around farmland, vineyards and anywhere where carrion (dead animals) can be found (e.g. abattoirs, rubbish dumps and roadsides). Prefers tall trees for nesting.

Seasonal movements: 

Partially migratory, but mostly resident in northern and western Australia.

What does it do?
Feeding: 

Whistling Kites soar above the ground, trees and water to search for prey such as carrion (dead animals) and small live animals such as mammals, birds, fish and insects.

Breeding: 

The Whistling Kite appears to be monogamous, with some breeding pairs remaining in a territory throughout the year and pairs actively defend the area around a nest. The bulky nest platform is built of sticks in a tall tree and may be reused, growing larger over time. Both sexes build the nest and incubate the eggs (the female does most of the incubation however) and may breed two or three times a year. The young stay with the parents after fledging for about six to eight weeks.

Living with us

The Whistling Kite as been favoured by clearing to some extent as it does not enter dense forests, but it still needs remnant tall trees for nesting. Farmlands are useful hunting grounds and provide extra water sources. Road kill provides a good source of food. However, wetland destruction and drainage has affected populations in southern Australia.

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