300 metres

To: Birding-Aus <>
Subject: 300 metres
From: Jonny Schoenjahn <>
Date: Sat, 23 Jul 2016 07:39:36 +0000
Hello all

Following up on Chris Watson’s report (and advertisement) regarding 
Letter-winged Kites, I wish to ask the tour organisers and participants to 
exercise great caution in the nest areas. Disturbance by humans was responsible 
for over 40% of complete nest failures in the a comprehensive study on breeding 
raptors (by Craighead and Craighead (1956)), by very far the greatest cause of 
nest failure. 300 metres is a safe distance with most species, but it may not 
be even enough for Letter-winged Kites of for the particular individuals 
involved (birds do have ‘personalities’). For example, Wedge-tailed Eagles 
require a much greater distance.

I am aware that a distance of 300 m or more seems at first to be not useful to 
get the perfect view or photograph. However, a couple of basic rules may 
provide results nevertheless: stay together as a tight group around the 
vehicle, and be patient. Chances are that the birds come closer, sooner or 

Even if the birds don’t seem to be disturbed at all by (too close) observers, 
they may abandon the nest and the site within the next few days, unnoticed of 
course by the observers who in turn get the impression that their behaviour was 
perfectly fine. Nests (and eggs!) are most like to be abandoned during the 
period between nest site selection and hatching. If the LWKs near Alice Springs 
are laying within the next few days, the eggs may hatch around the end of 
August. This means that visiting the site in question should not be considered 
before September. Patience, yet again.

Please don’t go closer than 300 metres. The life of these birds is difficult, 
and we can easily make it much more difficult, even impossible.

Last and certainly not least, if you go and get to see Letter-winged Kites, 
enjoy it! What a fantastic and unique species!


Jonny Schoenjahn
Grey Falcon research
Perth, WA

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