Square-tailed Kite Prey outside breeding Season

To: "Elisabeth Larsen (E-mail)" <>,
Subject: Square-tailed Kite Prey outside breeding Season
From: Jim Shields <>
Date: Sun, 28 Sep 2003 16:16:45 +1000
This is an article written for the Far South Coast Bird Watcher's
It contains some answers and speculations about winter foraging of the
square-tailed kite. 
Jim Shields and Elisabeth Larsen

Square-tailed Kites on the Far South Coast of New South Wales

The Square-tailed Kite Lophoictinea isura is a raptor that we see regularly
on the far south coast of NSW, with reports in September, 2003 from Jim
Morris at Khia, the FSCBW trip to Bithrey inlet, and observations at Tura
Beach by myself and other residents throughout the month.  It is a striking
and well named species, with a truly square tail, a white streaked head and
reddish brown plumage below.  It's behaviour is unique amongst Australian
raptors, resulting from a prey base of small (usually passerine) birds,
their eggs, and their nestlings.  It hunts by soaring low over the canopy of
forests, woodlands, and shrubby areas which provide good habitat for its
prey - something of a birdwatcher in itself, the Square-tailed Kite.
Interesting south coast features are its apparent year round residency at
Tura - in other areas NSW (e.g. near Kendall, where my mates monitor a nest)
the birds  leave the breeding area after the young fledge in late summer.
Also at Tura, where I run on the beach all winter on a daily basis, I have
observed the species regularly soaring low over the sand, about 10 metres in
from the water's edge, apparently looking for beach washed birds and fish.
On one occasion, I saw the bird alight and start eating a dead Little Pied
Cormorant (17 July 2003).  I regularly see the species in winter over the
Bell Miner colonies near the airport, and on the creek flat just north of
Merimbula - if they are small passerine specialists, those Bell Miner
colonies are sort of like a supermarket.  It would be interesting to find
out more about the movements, breeding requirements and foraging habits of
this interesting and unique species.  Good birding.  Jim Shields

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