We’re looking to the skies this Fauna Friday and focusing in on the Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus). Whistling Kites are raptors (birds of prey) and we are lucky enough in Mandurah (the largest regional city in WA’s south west) that we have a resident breeding population.
Whistling Kites are medium-sized raptors (with a wingspan of 120 -145 cm). They are widely distributed across Australia (less common in Tasmania) and occur in a variety of habitats including farmland and open areas, wetlands and woodlands. They have adapted quite well to some urban environments, particularly if the built environment is adjacent to other preferred habitat – much like Mandurah’s proximity to the Peel Yalgorup wetland system. It is a special experience to hear their beautiful descending whistling call, which is followed by an exuberant chattering.
Like all raptors, Whistling Kites have exceptional eyesight and soar high while searching for prey which can include carrion (dead animals), small mammals (e.g. rats in urban areas, rabbits in farmland), reptiles, fish, insects and other birds.
In Mandurah, Whistling Kites can be found breeding in the top of the few mighty Tuarts (Eucalyptus gomphocephala) that remain along the Serpentine River. More recently, I have noticed an active nest built on top of a telecommunications tower in the heart of Mandurah. With extensive clearing of woodland habitat throughout the Swan Coastal Plain as our suburbs expand, nature is forced to adapt.
So instead of a tall, mature tree, this pair of Whistling Kites has chosen steel for the foundation of their large stick nest. Impressive adaptive behaviour by the Whistling Kites; but perhaps also a sobering symbol of the impact of clear-felling remnant vegetation for urbanisation.