AOI Currawang raptor ID

To: "'Mark Clayton'" <>, <>
Subject: AOI Currawang raptor ID
From: "Philip Veerman" <>
Date: Tue, 21 Jan 2014 13:59:41 +1100
Yes when in SE Aust they will be birds of (or over) the tall canopy. There was a pair seen by most people (including me) at the BOC christmas camp near Omeo in east Gippsland in and over tall forest and edges. But much of their range is not forest land (maybe even less so with agricultural clearing).  The first one I saw (late August 1982) was in very open country in SW Qld. It was a purely random sighting for me. I was driving westwards toward Tibooburra and decided in the morning that I would stop for a rest at the point when my car odometer turned 70000. Which is what I did. There were hardly any birds there. I walked around and as I was about to set off again I saw it slowly floating over a row of low trees along the roadside, so watched it there for a while.
As for Wayne's "No one has mentioned the STK’s white forehead/face which, together with its hunting modus operandum, seems a reliable way of identifying this species."
True but Jude's description of the circumstance allows that a small feature like the white face can be missed.
The big thing about IDing this species is don't get confused by the similarity of old Black Kite name of Fork-tailed Kite. They are really very different. This has probably caused a lot of confusion in the early years, as also suggested by Steve Wilson in his book.
-----Original Message-----
From: Mark Clayton [
Sent: Tuesday, 21 January 2014 12:12 PM
To: 'Philip Veerman';
Subject: RE: [canberrabirds] AOI Currawang raptor ID

There is one record of a Square-tailed Kite in COG’s Area of Interest that I am about to write up. The bird was seen a long time ago by Richard Allen, Chris Davey, Paul Mahoney and myself in Tallaganda State Forest. On the same trip we also recorded a Sooty Owl.


I am very familiar with Square-tailed Kites from working along the NSW and Queensland coasts and have seen two nests in forest east of Bombala. They have always been in forested areas. In 2011 on a trip to Iron Range several experienced local observers travelling with me also recorded one in Currawinya National Park in sw Queensland, again in forested country. What worries me with Jude’s bird is that it was recorded doing circles around grassy and shrubby areas, typical of harriers; Square-tailed Kites are birds of the canopy but obviously they must fly over open areas to get from A to B. As I also pointed out when I replied to Jude the white tail could be a trick of the light as I have seen many adult Spotted Harriers showing very pale, almost white, in some lighting situations. Jude however is certain the bird had a white tail. Adult Spotted Harriers have a strongly marked black and white banded tail while Square-tailed Kites are pale under the tail and darker above.


I suppose the upshot of all this is that unless the bird is seen again, we will never know. Square-tailed Kites could be moving back “north” at this time of year so anything is possible.





From: Philip Veerman [
Sent: Tuesday, 21 January 2014 11:37 AM
Subject: [canberrabirds] AOI Currawang raptor ID


I have given Jude some suggestions on this.


As far as I know we have no prior records of Square-tailed Kite in our area. That does not mean it can't come here. They have been occurring as a regular summer migrant to the NSW SE coast (although only very few of them). For years I have been expecting that it is inevitable that one would come to our area.  


Square-tailed Kite is well worth considering as a possibility and seems to be high on the list. The behaviour certainly is consistent with Square-tailed Kite (though not exclusive of others). Of the large, brown raptors, none have a "clearly white tail" but it rules out Black Kite and probably can fit a not great view of a Square-tailed Kite but does not diagnostically any better rule out male Swamp Harrier, Little Eagle, White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Whistling Kite, Pacific Baza or a big Brown Falcon, they all have pale tails with variously darker parts, though in most the tail is not square. The Square-tailed Kite has a noticeably long tail, as distinct from the short square tail of a Little Eagle and is very much lighter in its movements, sort of floats like a big butterfly.




-----Original Message-----
From: jude hopwood
Sent: Tuesday, 21 January 2014 7:39 AM
Subject: [canberrabirds] AOI Currawang raptor ID

Dear All,


Evan Beaver has identified this bird as a Square-tailed Kite confirmed by all the images I found on the net, especially BirdLife Australia whose images and descriptions confirmed the sighting. 

* very long, upswept paddle-shaped wings

* Searching for prey from the air, where they are highly agile at low levels

* They specialise in hunting among trees, twisting between and below tree-tops, and they take most prey from the outer foliage of the canopy, but do not enter the canopy

In the brief time I observed the bird several times I thought it would perch as it was circling shrubs and small trees, allowing me time for a closer look, but each time it moved on.


I'd never heard of nor read about this bird until sighting it.  Wow! As John Layton  described in his poetic report on the Ibis yesterday, way ahead of watching TV!




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