Square-tailed Kites are specialist predators of nestling birds, mostly honeyeaters. They hunt by flying low over the treetops, plunging down to snatch a bird or insect from amongst the outer foliage and do not usually enter the canopy.
They are mostly alone except in the breeding season when pairs may be observed. These kites inhabit coastal and subcoastal areas of Queensland, NSW, and Victoria. They are classified as vulnerable in NSW and sightings are generally rare.
- The White-bellied Sea Eagle, an imposing sight
- Spotted Pardalote, one of the smallest Australian birds
- Red-rumped parrots, common in open grasslands
- Rainfall and a lovely morning walk at Walka
- Tawny Frogmouth, native with an ideal disguise
- The White Tern, so at home over the ocean
- The Gang-gang cockatoo is one of Australia's most striking birds
- Galahs, the clowns of the sky and great entertainers
- Thieves in our gardens
- Little Corellas, one of the clowns of the bird world
They are highly agile at low levels and hunt in eucalypt open forest, paddocks, and trees in urban or semi-urban areas. They can also be found along the edges of dense forest and road verges with trees.
With a wingspan of 145cm, they are one of a group of 24 raptors found in Australia. They feed on birds, bird eggs, nestlings, reptiles, and insects with a particular liking for the larvae from paper wasps nests.
This raptor is usually silent or utters a hoarse or plaintive yelp. In flight it is buoyant and agile and seldom flaps its wings. They are a beautiful bird, with a white face and striking yellow eyes. They have a rufous underbody and long wings with prominent barred "fingers" and a long square tail.
They breed between July and December. The nest is a platform of sticks lined with green leaves, up to 34 metres above the ground in the fork of a living tree. Three eggs are laid and one or two survive.
While encounters with this species are few and far between, they are memorable. Square-tailed Kites suddenly appear, soaring low over the trees, with wings in a shallow V, head moving from side to side scanning the foliage and then suddenly, gone. It is an awesome sight, leaving you with the impression of bright rufous feathers and that white face. This was my experience recently in my backyard in Lorn.
Like all raptors, it is threatened by habitat clearance and illegal egg collection and has low breeding density. However, it seems that over the last few years more sightings have been recorded in the Hunter. I hope this is a positive sign.
Hunter Bird Observers Club: www.hboc.org.au