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6

Brahminy Kite

(Haliastur indus)
Alternate name(s): "Red-backed Sea Eagle", "White-headed Sea Eagle",
"Rufous-backed Sea Eagle", "Salmon-hawk", "Rufous-backed Fish-hawk", "Red-backed Kite"
Aboriginal name(s): Race "girrenera": "ngamandjin" [eastern bundjalung]

Size: 45 cm (male), 50 cm (female); wing span 1.1-1.3 m
Weight: 490-610 g (male), 580-675 g (female)
Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Brahminy Kite at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Click here for sighting information

Photos

Race "girrenera"

ADULT

PAIR

Lateral view of a pair of Brahminy Kites (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Daintree River, QLD, December 2018]

Pair of Brahminy Kites perched on stakes, waiting for the photographer to clear out
[Near Old Bar, NSW, June 2011]

Dorsal/ventral view of a pair of Brahminy Kites hunting together
[Limeburners Creek NP, NSW, October 2013]

Sex unknown

Close-up frontal view of a Brahminy Kite; note the particularly long upper mandible of this raptor
(photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Daintree River, QLD, December 2018]

Close-up frontal view of a Brahminy Kite (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Daintree River, QLD, December 2018]

Frontal view of a Brahminy Kite (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Fraser Island, QLD, September 2018]

Frontal view of a Brahminy Kite (photo courtesy of J. Boettcher, FNQ Nature Tours)
[Pioneer Cemetery, Cairns, QLD, July 2020]

Close-up near-frontal view of a Brahminy Kite (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Daintree River, QLD, December 2018]

Near-frontal view of a Brahminy Kite (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Fraser Island, QLD, September 2018]

Near-frontal view of a Brahminy Kite (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Caloundra, QLD, August 2017]

Near-lateral view of a Brahminy Kite (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Daintree River, QLD, July 2018]

Near-lateral/ventral view of a Brahminy Kite (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Darwin, NT, April 2018]

Lateral view of a Brahminy Kite with its outer eye-lid open, left, and the eye-lid closed, right (photos courtesy of P. Brown)
[Near Dripstone Cliffs, Darwin, NT, December 2017]

Near-dorsal view of a Brahminy Kite (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Buffalo Creek, Darwin, NT, July 2020]

Close-up lateral portrait of a Brahminy Kite seen from behind (photo courtesy of J. Boettcher, FNQ Nature Tours)
[Daintree River, QLD, April 2019]

Dorsal view of a Brahminy Kite looking back at the observer (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Marmor, QLD, August 2023]

Dorsal view of a Brahminy Kite looking over its shoulder (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Daintree River, QLD, July 2018]

Frontal view of a Brahminy Kite in flight
[Limeburners Creek NP, NSW, October 2013]

Near-frontal/ventral view of a Brahminy Kite soaring in an updraft
[Limeburners Creek NP, NSW, October 2013]

Near-lateral view of a Brahminy Kite in flight
[Limeburners Creek NP, NSW, October 2013]

Near-lateral/ventral view of a Brahminy Kite controlling the lift of its wings by partly folding them
[Darwin, NT, August 2014]

Near-lateral/ventral view of a Brahminy Kite in flight (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Lee Point, Darwin, NT, July 2020]

Lateral view from above onto the upperwing pattern of a Brahminy Kite in flight
[Limeburners Creek NP, NSW, October 2013]

Lateral view of a Brahminy Kite in flight (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Kakadu NP, NT, July 2020]

Lateral view of a Brahminy Kite just after takeoff
[Bundjalung NP, NSW, February 2012]

Lateral/ventral view of a Brahminy Kite in flight looking down at the observer
[Limeburners Creek NP, NSW, October 2013]

Near-dorsal/ventral view of a Brahminy Kite in flight
[Limeburners Creek NP, NSW, October 2013]

Dorsal view from above onto the upperwing pattern of a Brahminy Kite in flight
[Limeburners Creek NP, NSW, October 2013]

On an overcast day the underwings of a Brahminy Kite can appear to be darker (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Darwin, NT, January 2018]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

Near-frontal/ventral view of a young Brahminy Kite; part of its plumage is still juvenile [note the dark ear coverts], while the chestnut belly/vent/undertail are indicative of first immature plumage (photo courtesy of B. Hensen)
[Casuarina Coastal Reserve, Darwin, NT, July 2012]

Dorsal/ventral view of a juvenile Brahminy Kite in flight (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Jingili Water Gardens, Darwin, NT, March 2020]

Dorsal/ventral view of a juvenile Brahminy Kite in flight (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Jingili Water Gardens, Darwin, NT, March 2020]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Apr - Nov Eggs: 1 - 2 Incubation period: 26 - 27 days Fledging age: 50 - 60 days

We list here the breeding season of Brahminy Kites in Australia. It depends significantly on geographical latitude. In the tropical North, Brahminy Kites breed after the wet season, in April - July. Farther southward, they breed in spring, in August - November.

Nest building: Female & male Incubation: Female (& male) Dependent care: Female & male

Twitcher's tip

Note that, by the time they fledge (i.e., leave their nest), the young of all species of raptors - apart from the tail and wing feathers (which are still growing) - are already full adult-size.

Nest

"bungobittah", "lar", "malunna", "jindi" [bundjalung] = nest [Aboriginal]

Type: Basket Material: Sticks, grass, seaweed Height above ground: <10? m

Specializing in hunting near water, Brahminy Kites usually also nest in tall trees near or in water, preferably on the seaward side of mangroves.

(Presumably female) Brahminy Kite on its nest (photo courtesy of J. Boettcher, FNQ Nature Tours)
[Pioneer Cemetery, Cairns, QLD, August 2020]

Lateral view of a Brahminy Kite near its nest (photo courtesy of J. Boettcher, FNQ Nature Tours)
[Pioneer Cemetery, Cairns, QLD, August 2020]

Eggs

"boyanga", "booyanga", "derinya", "dirandil", "koomura", "mirk", "ngampu", "nooluk", "pateena", "pum-pum" = Egg; "dirundirri" = eggs [Aboriginal]; "gawu" = eggs [gamilaraay]

Size: 52 x 41 mm Colour: Off-white, with faint creamy speckles Shape: Tapered oval

Behaviour

Social behaviour: Territorial Mobility: Sedentary Elementary unit: Solitary/pair

Dorsal/ventral view of a pair of Brahminy Kites hunting together
[Limeburners Creek NP, NSW, October 2013]

Food, Diet

Adults: Dead fish, carrion Dependents: As adults Water intake: None

All raptors are carnivores. Brahminy Kites feed on small fish and occasionally other small animals. They also scavenge on carrion.

During the first few weeks, raptors feed their chicks with pieces of meat. Later on in their development, the chicks learn to tear apart their parents' prey.

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

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