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Brahminy Kite - BirdForum Opus

Revision as of 16:24, 23 June 2023 by KeithDickinson-10828 (talk | contribs) (→‎External Links: updated VSearch)
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Nominate subspecies
Photo © by John Keep
Baga, Goa, India, 8 March 2008
Haliastur indus


H. i. intermedius
Photo © by Weng Chun
Kuala Gula Bird Sanctuary, Malaysia, 10 October 2004

Length 44–52 cm (17¼-20½ in), wingspan 109–124 cm, weight 320–670 g

  • Male slightly smaller than female; no sex difference in plumage
  • Chestnut brown body and wings except for black outer primaries
  • Black outer primaries
  • White head and breast, finely streaked grey or pure white (see Subspecies, below)
  • Tail relatively short; square-ended, to rounded when fanned; not forked
  • Pale blue-grey to yellow bill
  • Yellowish feet


  • Brown all over, mottled and streaked
  • Underwing with dark brown carpal bar and secondaries, pale secondary coverts and inner primaries (forming a broad pale 'H' across the wingspan), and black outer primaries

Similar species

Adults unmistakable. In Australia, juvenile easily confused with Whistling Kite and Square-tailed Kite; note shorter tail of Brahminy, and exact pattern of dark and pale on underwing. Black Kite can be distinguished by its shallowly forked tail.


Southern Asia to Australia.
Breeds in much of India and Sri Lanka and in mainly coastal areas from Burma and southern China south to Malaya and from the Philippines, Borneo and Sumatra east to New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago and Solomon Islands, and Australia. In Australia a northern coastal species found from about Shark Bay in Western Australia to central New South Wales. Resident.


H. i. girrenera
Photo © by tcollins
Darwin Northern Territory, Australia, 6 September 2009


Four subspecies are recognised[1]:

  • H. i. indus:
  • Head and breast with obvious grey streaks; bill pale blue-grey with pale yellow cere and cutting edge
  • H. i. intermedius:
  • Head and breast with faint grey streaks; bill pale blue-grey with pale yellow cere and cutting edge
  • H. i. girrenera:
  • Head and breast pure white; bill pale blue-grey with pale yellow cere and cutting edge
  • H. i. flavirostris:
  • Head and breast pure white; bill all pale yellow


Coastal mudflats, islands, estuaries, mangroves, and inland wetlands and farmland up to 2,300m. In some areas common in coastal towns.


1st year juvenile H. i. girrenera
Photo © by Ken Doy
King Island, Wellington Point, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, 27 August 2017


It nests in mangroves or other trees close to water. The nest is made of twigs and sticks, usually lined with dried mud. The 2 white eggs have scattered red-brown blotches. Both adults care for the young.


The diet includes frogs, small snakes, crabs, insects and fish. It also scavenges.


Call: a mewing keeyew, kweeaa or kyeeer.


Juvenile, Nominate subspecies
Photo © by S K Gudi
Attiveri Bird Sanctuary, Karnataka, India, 29 January 2018

Click on photo for larger image


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Debus, S., Marks, J.S. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/52980 on 3 November 2019).
  3. Global Raptor Information Network. 2019. Species account: Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 2 Nov. 2019
  4. Gregory, P. (2017) Birds of New Guinea, Including Bismarck Archipelago and Boughainville. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

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