Brahminy Kite Fact File

Haliastur indus

Credit: Copyright. The Animal Facts.

Weight

325-650g

(12-23oz)

Length

45-50cm

(17.5-19.5in)

Lifespan

Wild 30 years

Captive 30 years

Diet

Carnivores

Fish, Frogs, Insects

Conservation Status

IUCN

Least Concern

The Brahminy Kite!

Brahminy kites are found across parts of southern Asia and the coastline of Australia. Here they are typically associated with water where they will hunt for fish and scavenge other food such as crustaceans.

These birds typically do not hunt their own food as they struggle to grasp it with their weak claws. Instead they will harass other birds and aim to have them drop any prey they are carrying which they can then steal and consume.

Pairs will build a large nest which is reused for several years. Here they raise their chicks until they are able to fledge and head out on their own.

Appearance

What does the Brahminy Kite look like?

The brahminy kite is a striking bird owing to its contrasting feather pattern. They have rich chestnut colored feathers on the back which stand out against the stark white color of the breast and head. The wings have black tips. At the end of the body is a short tail with a pale tip.


Their legs and feet are un-feathered with claws used for clasping their prey. These birds have weaker claws when compared to those of other raptors. To help eat their prey they have a short, yellow bill which is hooked at the end.


Both male and female share a similar feather pattern. Females tend to be marginally larger than the males.


An average female will measure 50cm (19.5in) long compared to the 45cm (17.5in) long male. They have a wingspan of between 1.2 and 1.3m (4-4.25ft) across. An average weight for the species is between 325 and 650g (12-23oz).

Adaptations

How does the Brahminy Kite survive in its habitat?


The feet of the brahminy kite are weak.

They have shown an ability to swim well if they fall in to the water and can then take off without any trouble.

These birds are seen taking advantage of dolphins which are chasing fish. As the dolphins herd the fish they can pick them off easier.

Diet

What does the Brahminy Kite eat?

The brahminy kite is a carnivore. They will feed on fish, frogs, insects and carrion.


These birds perch on a tree branch and watch out for any potential prey items on the ground below. They have also been observed to scavenge for discarded scraps at rubbish dumps. During fires they will pick off any animals which are escaping the fire.

Groups of these birds may gather at carcasses. At these sites they may vocalise.


Prey is skimmed off the surface of the water. This is then eaten while on the wing (in flight) allowing them to avoid their prey being stolen by other birds. They have been seen hassling other birds to make them drop their prey allowing them to eat it.

Range

Where do you find the Brahminy Kite?

This species enjoys a wide range across Asia and Australia. Here they occur along the coastline of the following countries – Australia; Bhutan; Bangladesh; Brunei Darussalam; Cambodia; China; Hong Kong; India; Indonesia; Lao People’s Democratic Republic; Maldives; Malaysia; Myanmar; Nepal; Pakistan; Palau; Papua New Guinea; Philippines; Singapore; Solomon Islands; Sri Lanka; Thailand; Timor-Leste; Vanuatu and Viet Nam.

Habitat

Where can the Brahminy Kite survive?

Brahminy kites are found along the coastline of most of their range countries. They will inhabit marine environments and wetlands. They can be found venturing slightly in to forests along the coastline or travelling further inland along rivers.

Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus)

Credit: Copyright. The Animal Facts.

Reproduction

How does the Brahminy Kite produce its young?

Nesting for these birds occurs between April and October. This is variable across their range.

The nest built by the brahminy kite is a platform formed from twigs, barks and dried mud which can grow to a large size. The main nest structure is then lined with lichen, bone and seaweed. It is formed high off the ground in a tree fork. Nests are reused for several years with additions made over time causing it to grow.

Nest sites may be communal with up to 600 pairs seen nesting together.

In to the nest the female deposits between 1 and 3 eggs which are white with brown spots.

These are incubated for 35 days. Both of the parents will work together to incubate the eggs.

Chicks complete their first flight after 56 days old but remain in their parents range for a further two months during which time they are taught how to survive as adults.

Juveniles appear similar to the adults but have brown plumage.

Sexual maturity is achieved at 2 years old.

Behavior

What does the Brahminy Kite do during its day?

During the night these birds may roost together in a large group.

These birds are primarily silent. When they do vocalise it is a long, drawn-out wail. They can also produce a meowing call.

Predators and Threats

What stops the Brahminy Kite from surviving and thriving?

Populations of the brahminy kite are in decline within much of their range. Their decline is being driven by habitat loss, hunting and the over use of pesticides.

These birds are commonly entangled in fishing gear or consume fishing hooks.

Quick facts

These birds may also be known as the red-backed kite, white headed sea eagle or rufous eagle.

This species was first described for modern science during 1760.

Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus)

Credit: Copyright. The Animal Facts.

References

Bird: The definitive visual guide (2022). London, UK: Dorling Kindersley.

Pizzey, G., Knight, F. and Pizzey, S. (2012) The field guide to the Birds of Australia. Sydney, NSW: HarperCollinsPublishers.

BirdLife International. 2016. Haliastur indusThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22695094A93489054. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22695094A93489054.en. Accessed on 13 October 2022.

Brahminy Kite (no date) Australia Zoo. Available at: https://www.australiazoo.com.au/wildlife/our-animals/brahminy-kite/ (Accessed: October 13, 2022).

Harrington, J.J. (no date) Brahminy Kite, The Australian Museum. The Australian Museum. Available at: https://australian.museum/learn/animals/birds/brahminy-kite/ (Accessed: October 16, 2022).

Bouglouan, N. (no date) Brahminy Kite. Oiseaux Birds. Available at: https://www.oiseaux-birds.com/card-brahminy-kite.html (Accessed: October 16, 2022).

Haliastur Indus, Brahminy Kite (no date) Thai National Parks. Available at: https://www.thainationalparks.com/species/brahminy-kite (Accessed: October 16, 2022).

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