ON THE ROAD — Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus axillarus) in Alice Springs.
Despite having a russet streaked belly, this raptor is known commonly as the Black Kite (Milvus migrans). It’s found almost all over Australia and frequently hunts along the fronts of grass fires. In the Kundedjnyenghmi dialect of Bininj Kunwok it is known as Buludjirrk. There are many reports from both indigenous and non-indigenous observers who have seen this bird pick up sticks which still have one end alight and fly off to drop the stick into dry grass, sometimes to get a fire across a creek or these days a track or road. I dream that one day I may get pictures of this happening! But how cool is a bird that uses fire as a tool for organised hunting? Very cool.
The Wedge-tailed Eagle (Aquila audax) is the largest of the Australian raptors and females may have a wingspan greater than 2.8 metres. A mature female may weigh as much as 5.77kg and the males a little less. They build huge stick nests and often successfully rear only one chick because stronger young may kill weaker siblings. They are magnificent to see riding thermals in the Australian outback and have been recorded at heights of up to 1800 metres. Their prey includes introduced rabbits, foxes and cats as well as smaller native marsupials, birds and lizards. Despite the good job they do dealing with feral animals Wedge-tailed Eagles were widely shot for most of the 20th century in farming areas, particularly in sheep farming country. This caused the Tasmanian sub-species to be listed as endangered, with fewer than 200 pairs left in the wild. The Wedge-tailed Eagle, superimposed on a map of the Northern Territory is the emblem of the Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Service. The eagle pictured was one of three seen near Winton in western Queensland in 2013. In Western Arnhem Land this bird is known by various names in the dialects of Bininj Kunwok — Mailarrhwaken, Namaddol andKayimarri are three of those names.
The Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) is a handsome raptor of Northern Australia, south Asia, Papua-New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. This bird occasionally visits to perch high on a tree at the bottom of my garden. The Brahminy Kite, like most Australians, prefers to live near the coast. Juveniles lack the unmistakeable deep chestnut and white plumage.