Monday, June 4, 2007

Kites above the River

High overhead and leaning right over the river sit two regal birds. Bhahminy kites. These raptors follow the coast and tidal waterways in search of food and nesting sites. The pair sit perched over the water watching the river intently. Scrutinising the surface for fish and the ground for frogs, small rodents or birds fossicking on the ground. Waiting patiently. Then, launching from their treetop vantage point, the birds plunge, catching their prey with razor sharp talons. Then they wheel into the air, seek out the eddies and glide, almost floating.

The Reader's Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds (1976:121) describes the kites as 'handome', 'quiet' and 'unobtrusive'. They have white feathered heads and glossy russet feathered bodies with flashes of dark chesnut along their wing tips visible as they fly. They are mainly solitary birds except at breeding times, from April to October in the dry season in northern Australia.

I peer into the tall branches, looking for a nest of sticks and twigs; it could be up to 11 meters above ground. But all I see are the two birds silently watching.

In other parts of the world like Indonesia Brahminy kites are in danger. This beautiful emblem of the city of Jakarta is threatened from habitat destruction and illegal capture from the wild, for sale as a pet and status symbol for the home. The International Animal Rescue organisation has set up a program to rehabilitate these endangered birds back into the wild. It is a slow and careful process and not all birds can successfully be returned, they've spent too much time with humans and have forgotten how to be wild birds. Yet in the past two years the IAR has released 34 kites with, hopefully, more to come.

This amazing photo of a Brahminy kite in flight was taken by Singaporean nature photographer Fong Chee Wai from the
Nature Photography Society of Singapore.

Frith HJ, Ed, 1976, Reader's Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds, Surry Hills, NSW, Reader's Digest Services Pty Ltd.

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