This is the info on the mysterious raptor that I saw on CI in January
(mentioned in my trip report sent earlier). It's a tale of frustration!
Literally seconds after passing security for my flight to Perth, I noticed a
dark brown bird circling over the runway. It soon became obvious that it wasn't
one of the Frigatebirds that do occur around the airport, but a large(ish)
raptor. My views were short and frustratingly restricted by being inside the
building (I tried to get out onto the tarmac but that idea didn't sit well with
What I saw was a generally darkish brown raptor, about the size and colour of a
Black Kite (dark as a govinda bird), which was my first impression. However,
the flight jizz didn't really suit a Milvus Kite. As the bird turned I noticed
that it held it's wings in a fairly deep V and 'floated' as it banked, and so
it became apparent that I was probably looking at a Harrier. There was no
whitish rump that I could see and no pattern on the tail, which did appear
longish in proportion to the body. The bird angled sharply, then dropped to the
ground. I decided to take a couple of fotos, just to be safe - the best of
these is at:
Through binoculars (and the window) what I could make out (in short) was a
generally dark bird with slightly lighter brown underparts, a pale, somewhat
streaked face and dull rufous feathered thighs. The bird was standing in grass
and I could not see the legs. On the basis of what I saw I have narrowed it
down to either a young Swamp Harrier (Circus approximans) or young (poss.
female) Eastern Marsh Harrier (C. spilonotus).
There appears to be confusion as to the identification of an immature bird
collected from Cocos Is in the early 1940's, which has been identified as both
of these two species at different times.
Incredibly, as the plane taxied up the runway I noticed the bird standing in
grass off to the eastern side of the runway, about 200m to the north of where
it had landed. Through the scratched dirty plane window, absolutely nothing of
use could be seen. The bird did not flush, so the pilot would have seen it
clearly when the plane came back down the runway for take-off.
If anyone can assist with this bird, I'd be very appreciative. At this stage I
am the only person known to have seen it and although there was a suggestion
that it may have been destroyed (due to airport safety concerns), this doesn't
appear to be the case.
Incidentally, whilst going through the references I noticed that the new C&B
lists 3 species of Circus for Australia, being C. approximans, C. assimilis and
C. pectoralis. This last species was initially a mystery as it doesn't exist.
Cissomela pectoralis (Banded Honeyeater) is missing from their index, so it's
obviously a typo.
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