The most abundant of raptors, the Black Kite (Milvus migrans) is an exciting bird to watch in action. It is the spectacular subject of our #58 Bird Photography Challenge.
What does it look like?
The Black Kite is a medium-sized bird of prey, with a wingspan of between 130 and 155 cms. From a distance it looks black, but when seen up close it is actually dark brown with a light bar on the shoulder and some rufous markings, particularly on the head, neck and underparts. The tail is forked and barred with light brown. The eye is brown and piercing, and the bill is black with a yellow cere, which is the area of skin around the nostrils.
How does it behave?
The Black Kite is an impressive and agile flyer, its long tail constantly twisting to manoeuvre while searching for food below or catching insects on the wing. It soars, gliding slightly downwards with arched wings.
It is an opportunistic hunter which feeds on lizards, small mammals and insects. Flocks of black kites are commonly seen gathering around bush fires to pick off hapless animals fleeing the flames. It is also a scavenger and carrion forms an important part of its diet.
The nest is built on tree branches, cliff edges, or pylons and is made from sticks and twigs, lined with softer material, such as moss or even rags. The female incubates the eggs while the male provides food.
This is a very vocal bird with a shrill whinnying call.
Did you know?
A spectacular aerial courtship is performed by both sexes. This involves loud calling, grappling of talons in mid-air and tumbling or cartwheeling.
Where is it found?
This kite is found in a variety of habitats from timbered water courses to open plains. Its range covers the majority of Australia’s mainland, from temperate to tropical parts. The temperate region population tends to be migratory. Several subspecies are also found in Africa, Asia and Europe, and it is probably the world’s most abundant raptor.
The photographs in the gallery were taken with a Canon 7dii and 100-400 lens, around Lake Borrie Wetlands and also at Healesville Sanctuary. Click on any image in the gallery to display in full screen.