CI Raptor (from previous trip report)

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: CI Raptor (from previous trip report)
From: Mick Roderick <>
Date: Tue, 11 Mar 2008 18:18:08 -0700 (PDT)
Hi again,
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.
Mick Roderick

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