Whsitling Kite attack

To: "" <>
Subject: Whsitling Kite attack
From: Penny Brockman <>
Date: Thu, 06 Apr 2006 15:43:40 +1000
Bob Lake wrote:

Whistling Kite in hot pursuit

One of our most common raptors in south-east Queensland and the far north of NSW is the Whistling Kite, which I have never before seen hunting in this fashion. This month, we stayed at Brooms Head - a beautiful spot around which we recorded 99 species - also visiting nearby Sandon in Yuragir National Park. On the Sandon estuary beach we watched flocks of Silver Gulls and Crested and Little Terns, which rose in an almost ritual flap every time a Whistling Kite soared lazily overhead at a height of 50 metres or so. (The kite returned from time to time to a nest high in a Norfolk Pine - whether it was breeding or not at this time I couldn't tell).

Then as the kite approached for the umpteenth time, it glided swiftly down, losing altitude to be about seven metres or so above the flock at the time the alarm was given. As the flock of about 60 gulls and terns took to the air, the kite locked on to one Little Tern, pursuing it through the rapidly dispersing mass and ignoring the other birds. As the Little tern jigged and twisted, the kite turned its wings this way and that in hot pursuit - an awesome performance in such a large and apparently 'lazy' bird. At the far perimeter of the airborne flock, the tern twisted its way through a jigging 180 degree turn, followed, incredibly, by the kite. But by then the kite had lost too much ground and although it still followed the same tern it was now several metres behind and gave up - flapping and soaring back to its higher patrolling altitude.

Are there many records of such determined hunting of live airborne prey by Whistling Kites? I have never seen this before but then, maybe I don't spend enough time on the beach.

Re: Bob's sighting above. I've just returned from a week in the Auckland area and visited Miranda Tuesday 28th March. While watching 1000s of Wrybills and S Island Pied Oystercatchers, 100s of Lesser Knot and Bar-tailed Godwits, parties of the latter two species were rising, circling and attempting to land in some open shallow pools away from the shoreline, when an Australasian Harrier took off and attacked from below one group of around 150 or so Knot. It flew up towards the base of the flock, which took evasive action wheeling up and sideways, with a tail of the 30 or so birds drifting off to one side. The main flock continued flying fast south along the coast with the Harrier again and again trying to crash into them from below. Didn't see the end of this chase as they flew out of sight.

It was a superb sight to see so many Wrybill. Also a pair of Buff-breasted Rails with well grown juvenile, about 50 White-faced Heron, a few Sharp-tailed Sandpipers but impossible to get close to these as no cover. Many of the Knots were in bright chestnut-red breeding plumage.

Also visited Tiri-Tiri Matangi Island off Auckland - they now have over 350 Stitchbirds and the Kokako are also breeding successfully.- a pair was moving around in the trees above my head (very difficult to get good views) and singing - a weird and lovely series of calls - bell-like, croaks, warbles - makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. It's a great island to spend a day on, and you get to see a few seabirds en route - in this case only a large raft of Fluttering Shearwaters as the sea was dead flat.

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