Whistling Kite: The Ultimate Guide

The Whistling Kite also scientifically known as Haliastur Sphenurus is a part of the Accipitridae family.

This bird of prey is known for the distinctive, loud whistling sound it makes, giving it its name the ‘whistling’ kite.

This raptor is also known as the whistling eagle or whistling hawk due to its significant appearance which is significantly similar to the appearance of an eagle and hawk.

The Whistling Kite is currently not under threat and continues to live abundantly within its habitats which stem across regions of Australia, New Caledonia, and New Guinea. 

The Whistling Kite has outstanding features that have been adapted making them a stand-out bird of prey. The following shows an ultimate guide packed with all the information you need to know about the Whistling Kite. 

Appearance

Size

A Whistling Kite on average weighs between 1.3-2.2 lb (0.5-1 kg). They are medium-sized birds of prey consisting of sandy colored, brown, and white feathers. These raptors are 48-57 in (121.9-144.7 cm) tall on average.

Wings 

A Whistling Kite’s wings have a distinctive bent M-shape when they are open. Their wings consist of an underwing streak pattern with adults having brown and subtle pale streaks on the under part of their wings.

Whereas immature Whistling Kites have dark sandy brown wings with a wingspan of 3.9ft (120 cm). Their wings consist of heavy pale streaks on the underside of their wings. An immature Whistling Kites’ feathers are fluffier as their feathers are not fully mature.

Body

Whistling Kites are of a medium-sized build, whilst they are not the largest predator, they have an advantage of strength and weight. Whistling Kites have a distinctive feature of having a long and slightly curved tail.

They also have a short cooked grey beak and no feathers on their legs.

Eyes

Whistling Kites have large sharp brown eyes with excellent eyesight and the ability to spot prey from a great distance. 

Male Vs Female

There is a slight difference between male and female Whistling Kites. Female Whistling Kites are slightly larger and heavier than their male counterparts and are considered to have a slightly longer tail and shorter legs.

A female Whistling Kite weighs, on average, around 1.5-2.2 lb (0.5-1 kg), whilst a male Whistling Kite weighs, on average, around 1.3-1.5 lb (0.5-0.6 kg).

Are They Aggressive?

Whistling Kites are not considered aggressive unless they are given a reason to feel they need to be. You will find a Whistling Kite exhibiting aggressive behavior if they feel that their nest or chicks are under threat or if they have been disturbed in some way.

In these instances, they are known to release a high pitched call and will act to defend themselves and their territory. 

What Adaptations Do They Have?

Whistling Kites live in and thrive in several environments. Certain adaptations have kept them strong and able to prosper. 

Features 

Whistling Kites are extremely buoyant in flight enabling them to soar and glide with ease, reaching speeds around 118 mph (190kph). Their strength, size, and speed enable them to snatch food and consume it mid flight.

Environment 

Whistling Kites also have the ability to adapt during drought periods. Although they prefer to eat live prey, they adapt to their surroundings in search of farmland or coastline to scavenge for food when food is scarce elsewhere.

Breeding / Reproduction Behavior

Whistling Kite

Whistling Kites are considered monogamous creatures as a male and female stay together once mated and continue to mate and live together over the course of their lives.

Whistling Kites are known to breed together, keeping the same nest and building on it each year, their nests can reach quite large sizes. 

Whistling Kites lay a litter of 1-3 eggs on average. Their eggs are a mix of blue and white shades. Once laid, their eggs are incubated for 35-38 days by both of the parents before hatching.

 Their breeding seasons in the South runs from June to October whilst in the North it runs from February to May. Immature whistling kites spend 44-54 days in the nest. They then stay with their parents for another 6-8 weeks after their first flight. 

Whistling Kites will remain in the territory in which they have laid their chicks, they will continue to build on the nest and defend the area where their nest sits. They tend to breed around 2-3 times a year. 

Whistling Kites share their roles, both parents build the nest, incubate the eggs and feed the chicks. 

Their Calls / Sounds

Whistling Kites have a loud and distinctive call. They give out a loud whistling call during flight or if they are under threat. This loud, shrill whistle is what gives them the name ‘whistling kite.’

This distinctive call is often followed by a series of high rising notes which increase during the breeding season if they or their nest is in danger. 

What Do They Eat?

Whistling Kites are carnivores. They prefer to feed on live meat such as insects, small mammals, reptiles, other birds, and fish. However, they are also known for scavenging and feeding off carrion when food is scarce.

Whistling Kites’ are highly adaptable in finding food in multiple ways from picking on insects to hunting small mammals. 

Whistling Kites are known to soar in a circle in search of prey letting out loud whistles. 

Where Do They Live: What does their habitat look like?

Whistling Kites can be found in numerous regions and a variety of landscapes ranging from Australia, New Caledonia, and New Guinea.

Whilst mainly found on the mainland of Australia, they can also be found in coastal areas, waterways, woodlands, open country, and farmland. These locations all offer great opportunities for the Whistling Kite to find food, settle, mate, and breed.

What Are Their Nesting Habits

Whistling Kites tend to nest in large, tall trees with a platform for them to build the foundations of their nest. Popular trees for the Whistling Kite to nest are the eucalyptus or pine.

Whistling Kites reuse their nests as they are built on and added to over time. Their nests are known to get quite large. 

What material do they use?

Whistling Kite nests consist of a lining of sticks. Feathers and green leaves, these materials are continually added to.

How Long Do They Live For?

Whistling Kites tend to live on average, up to 10 years but there have been some which have lived as long as 26 years. 

What Predators Do They Have?

Whistling Kites face few threats other than a slight threat from humans and other predators. Their most prevalent threat is the destruction of wetlands which could impact the population. However, due to their ability to adapt this threat is not of concern. 

What Do Their Feathers Look Like?

Whistling Kite feathers are a mix of brown ginger and white feathers. They possess long flight feathers which are well splayed out and arch back during flight. They also have a distinctive and striking underwing pattern of pale streaks.

Immature Whistling Kite feathers are also a similar shade, however, their underside stands out more with more defined pale streaks. 

Do They Migrate?

Whistling Kites are known to stay in one area as well as migrate. Whilst they often stay in one territory in order to defend their nest and the surrounding area, they are known to migrate in certain circumstances.

Whistling Kites will migrate if they are in an area where food is scarce and the food conditions are frequently changing and not working for them. An example of this is the Whistling Kite migrating to the South from the wild North of Australia.

What is Their Conservation Status?

Whistling Kites are thriving and their conservation status is currently of least concern. Whilst they face few threats, their ability to adapt puts them in good stead.

Whilst the population of the Whistling Kite is unknown, they are of a stable population and are not under any extreme or urgent threats. 

Fun Facts

Did you know that the Whistling Kite can reach speeds around 118 mph (190 kph)?

Did you know that Whistling Kites are often confused with hawks and eagles due to their similarity in appearance?

Did you know that immature Whistling Kites continue to live with their parents for six to eight weeks after they have completed their first flight before they officially leave the nest? 

Did you know that Whistling Kites are diurnal birds and ten to hunt during the day?

Did you know that when food is scarce Whistling Kites turn to scavenge, eating anything from carrion to rubbish? 

Did you know that the whistling kite often marks its territory whilst making? They mark their territory to make sure that they make it clear that their area is prohibited from invaders.

Their territory mark will ultimately let other predators, such as hawks, know of their strength.