Square-tailed Kite

To: "Birding-aus" <>
Subject: Square-tailed Kite
From: "J G KROHN" <>
Date: Sat, 17 Jun 2000 22:48:26 +1000
My family and I spent the long weekend just gone at the Rotamah Island bird observatory in the Gippsland Lakes.  Highly recommended, and many thanks again to Liz and Craig for looking after us so well.  However, our best bird for the trip didn't show upuntil we were well on our way home.
I looked up about 5 km west of Rosedale on the Princes Hwy (about 180 km east of Melbourne), and saw a large BOP flying fairly purposefully west, more or less following the road.  A Magpie flew up to harass it, giving a fair indication of size: large, but definitely not to Wedge-tail or Sea-eagle size.  The BOP did not seem worried by the Magpie, just kept flying steadily with even, rowing sort of wingbeats.  We went underneath it, looking up (carefully) and I made out pretty distinct roundish pale markings around the base of the primaries.  The wings looked quite long for the size of the bird.  Cathy had a better look (while I glanced back at the traffic), and couldn't distinguish any other clear markings on the wings, but the tips were fingered rather than pointed.  I pulled over and managed another look as the bird headed further west, veering a bit to the right away to the north of the road.  The tail was broadish but not especially long; with the angle of the light I couldn't make out any pattern.  It looked proportionately bigger than a Little Eagle's tail.  It glided a bit at this stage, and the wings were upswept in the glide, with a bit of a break a bit over halfway out, the outer portion again upswept, especially at the tips.  This was quite different from, say, a Sea-eagle or a harrier, which in my experience display a clean sweep of the wings from body to tip.
I am familiar with both Little Eagle and Whistling Kite, and on the basis of my experience I'd comfortably rule out both of those, nor did it look anything like any of the Black Kites I have seen.  The closest I could come is Square-tailed Kite, of which I've only ever seen one, about 25 years ago.  I had a chance to look at the glide silhouette in HANZAB a couple of days later, and it looked spot on.  Seems a bit odd in Gippsland in the middle of June, however, if they are summer migrants as recent literature seems to suggest.
I'd welcome any comments from anyone more familiar with Square-tailed Kites than I am (or anyone else who's seen one in the Latrobe Valley recently).
Spent dawn this morning in Sherbrooke for the first of this winter's three Lyrebird survey mornings - heard three Lyrebirds and one Sotty Owl - well worth losing an hour or two's sleep.
    Jack Krohn
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