Thai National Parks

Birds of Thailand

Species of Thailand

Brahminy kite

Thai: เหยี่ยวแดง, yiow daeng

Binomial name: Haliastur indus, Pieter Boddaert, 1783

The brahminy kite (Haliastur indus) also known as the red-backed sea-eagle in Australia, is a medium-sized bird of prey in the family Accipitridae, which also includes many other diurnal raptors, such as eagles, buzzards, and harriers. They are found in the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and Australia. They are found mainly on the coast and in inland wetlands where they feed on dead fish and other prey. Adults have a reddish brown plumage and a contrasting white head and breast which makes them easy to distinguish from other birds of prey.

Description

The brahminy kite is distinctive and contrastingly coloured, with chestnut plumage except for the white head and breast and black wing tips. The juveniles are browner, but can be distinguished from both the resident and migratory races of black kite in Asia by the paler appearance, shorter wings and rounded tail. The pale patch on the underwing carpal region is of a squarish shape and separated from Buteo buzzards.

The brahminy kite is about the same size as the black kite (Milvus migrans) and has a typical kite flight, with wings angled, but its tail is rounded unlike the Milvus species, red kite and black kite, which have forked tails. The two genera are however very close.

The call is a mewing keeyew.

Taxonomy

The brahminy kite was described by French ornithologist Mathurin Jacques Brisson in 1760 as l'Aigle Pondicery, and given the Latin binomial Aquila Pondiceriana. Dutch naturalist Pieter Boddaert first used the name Falco indus in 1783.

Distribution and status

This kite is a familiar sight in the skies of Sri Lanka, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and southeast Asia and as far south as New South Wales, Australia, through which region it is widespread and resident. They perform seasonal movements associated with rainfall in some parts of their range.

They are mainly seen in the plains but can sometimes occur above 5000 feet in the Himalayas.

It is evaluated as being of least concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. However the species is on the decline in some parts such as Java.

Behaviour

The breeding season in South Asia is from December to April. In southern and eastern Australia, it is August to October, and April to June in the north and west. The nests are constructed of small branches and sticks with a bowl inside and lined with leaves, and are sited in various trees, often mangroves. They show considerable site fidelity nesting in the same area year after year. In some rare instances they have been seen to nest on the ground under trees. A clutch of two dull white or bluish-white oval eggs measuring 52 x 41 mm is laid. Both parents take part in nest building and feeding but it is suggested that only the female incubates. The incubation period is about 26 to 27 days.

It is primarily a scavenger, feeding mainly on dead fish and crabs, especially in wetlands and marshland but occasionally hunts live prey such as hares and bats. They may also indulge in kleptoparasitism and attempt to steal prey from other birds. Brahminy kites have even been recorded taking advantage of Irrawaddy dolphins herding fish to the surface, in the Mekong River. A rare instance of a bird feeding on honey at the hive of Apis florea has been recorded.

Young birds may indulge in play behaviour, dropping leaves and attempting to catch them in the air. When fishing over water, they may sometimes land in the water but manage to swim and take off without much trouble.

They roost communally on large and isolated trees and as many as 600 have been seen at just one location.

They may mob larger raptors such as the Aquila eagles. In some incidents where brahminy kites mobbed steppe eagles (Aquila rapax), they were attacked and injured or killed.

A number of ectoparasitic bird lice in the genera Kurodaia, Colpocephalum and Degeeriella have been reported.

In culture

Known as Elang Bondol in Indonesia, the brahminy kite is the official mascot of Jakarta. In India it is considered as the contemporary representation of Garuda, the sacred bird of Vishnu. In Malaysia, the island of Langkawi is named after the bird ('kawi' denoting an ochre-like stone used to decorate pottery, and a reference to the bird's primary plumage colour).

A fable from central Bougainville Island relates how a mother left her baby under a banana tree while gardening, and the baby floated into the sky crying and transformed into Kaa'nang, the brahminy kite, its necklace becoming the birds feathers.

For the Ibans of the Upper Rajang, Sarawak, Borneo, a brahminy kite is believed to be the manifestation of Singalang Burung when he comes down to earth. Singalang Burung is the ultimate deity of incomparable qualities and superior abilities in every dimension. He is also known as the god of war.

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Scientific classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Accipitriformes
Family
Accipitridae
Genus
Haliastur
Species
Haliastur indus

Common names

  • Thai: เหยี่ยวแดง, yiow daeng

Subspecies

  • Haliastur indus flavirostris, Condon & Dean Arthur Amadon, 1954

    Range: Solomon Islands

  • Haliastur indus girrenera, Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot, 1822

    Range: New Guinea, Bismarck Archipelago and Australia

  • Haliastur indus indus, Pieter Boddaert, 1783

    Range: South Asia

  • Haliastur indus intermedius, Edward Blyth, 1865

    Range: Malay Peninsula and into the islands of the Sundas, Sulawesi and the Philippines

Conservation status

Least Concern (IUCN3.1)

Least Concern (IUCN3.1)

Distribution map of Brahminy kite, Haliastur indus in Thailand
  • Amphawa District, Samut Songkhram
  • Ao Phang-Nga National Park
  • Ban Laem District, Phetchaburi
  • Ban Lat District, Phetchaburi
  • Ban Lueam District, Nakhon Ratchasima
  • Ban Phai District, Khon Kaen
  • Ban Pho District, Chachoengsao
  • Bang Pa In District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya
  • Bang Pakong District, Chachoengsao
  • Bang Phra Non-hunting Area
  • Bang Pu Recreation Centre
  • Bang Saphan Noi District, Prachuap Khiri Khan
  • Bangkok Province
  • Borabue District, Maha Sarakham
  • Bueng Boraped Non-hunting Area
  • Chatturat District, Chaiyaphum
  • Dan Chang District, Suphan Buri
  • Dong Kheng Forest Park
  • Hat Chao Mai National Park
  • Hat Noppharat Thara - Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park
  • Hat Wanakon National Park
  • Hat Yai District, Songkhla
  • Huai Chorakhe Mak Reservoir Non-hunting Area
  • Huai Sala Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Huai Talat Reservoir Non-hunting Area
  • Kaeng Krachan National Park
  • Kanthararom District, Sisaket
  • Kantharawichai District, Maha Sarakham
  • Kapong District, Phang Nga
  • Khanom District, Nakhon Si Thammarat
  • Khao Dinsor (Chumphon Raptor Center)
  • Khao Khiao - Khao Chomphu Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Khao Kradong Forest Park
  • Khao Lak - Lam Ru National Park
  • Khao Luang National Park
  • Khao Nam Khang National Park
  • Khao Phanom Bencha National Park
  • Khao Phra - Bang Khram Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
  • Khao Sok National Park
  • Khao Yai National Park
  • Khao Yoi District, Phetchaburi
  • Khlong Nakha Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Khlong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Khuan Khanun District, Phatthalung
  • Khung Kraben Non-hunting Area
  • Khura Buri District, Phang Nga
  • Klaeng District, Rayong
  • Ko Chang District, Trat
  • Ko Libong
  • Ko Phayam
  • Ko Phra Thong
  • Ko Samui District, Surat Thani
  • Ko Tao
  • Kumphawapi District, Udon Thani
  • La-ngu District, Satun
  • Laem Ngop District, Trat
  • Laem Pak Bia
  • Laem Son National Park
  • Mancha Khiri District, Khon Kaen
  • Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park
  • Mu Ko Chang National Park
  • Mu Ko Lanta National Park
  • Mu Ko Phetra National Park
  • Mu Ko Ranong National Park
  • Mu Ko Samet National Park
  • Mu Ko Similan National Park
  • Mu Ko Surin National Park
  • Mueang Chonburi District, Chonburi
  • Mueang Kalasin District, Kalasin
  • Mueang Khon Kaen District, Khon Kaen
  • Mueang Krabi District, Krabi
  • Mueang Nakhon Nayok District, Nakhon Nayok
  • Mueang Nakhon Ratchasima District, Nakhon Ratchasima
  • Mueang Nakhon Si Thammarat District, Nakhon Si Thammarat
  • Mueang Nonthaburi District, Nonthaburi
  • Mueang Pathum Thani District, Pathum Thani
  • Mueang Pattani District, Pattani
  • Mueang Phang Nga District, Phang Nga
  • Mueang Phatthalung District, Phatthalung
  • Mueang Phetchaburi District, Phetchaburi
  • Mueang Phuket District, Phuket
  • Mueang Ranong District, Ranong
  • Mueang Ratchaburi District, Ratchaburi
  • Mueang Samut Sakhon District, Samut Sakhon
  • Mueang Samut Songkhram District, Samut Songkhram
  • Mueang Satun District, Satun
  • Mueang Sisaket District, Sisaket
  • Mueang Songkhla District, Songkhla
  • Mueang Suphanburi District, Suphan Buri
  • Mueang Surat Thani District, Surat Thani
  • Mueang Surin District, Surin
  • Mueang Trat District, Trat
  • Nam Yuen District, Ubon Ratchathani
  • Ngao Waterfall National Park
  • Non Din Daeng District, Buriram
  • Non Thai District, Nakhon Ratchasima
  • Nong Song Hong District, Khon Kaen
  • Nong Ya Plong District, Phetchaburi
  • Pak Phanang District, Nakhon Si Thammarat
  • Pak Phli District, Nakhon Nayok
  • Pak Thale
  • Pak Thong Chai District, Nakhon Ratchasima
  • Pha Taem National Park
  • Phimai District, Nakhon Ratchasima
  • Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya
  • Phunphin District, Surat Thani
  • Phutthamonthon District, Nakhon Pathom
  • Pran Buri Forest Park
  • Rattanaburi District, Surin
  • Samae San Island
  • Samut Prakan Province
  • Sanam Bin Reservoir Non-hunting Area
  • Sathing Phra District, Songkhla
  • Sawi District, Chumphon
  • Si Racha District, Chonburi
  • Sikao District, Trang
  • Sirinat National Park
  • Sri Phang-nga National Park
  • Su-ngai Kolok District, Narathiwat
  • Suk Samran District, Ranong
  • Takua Pa District, Phang Nga
  • Tarutao National Marine Park
  • Tha Phae District, Satun
  • Tha Sala District, Nakhon Si Thammarat
  • Tha Yang District, Phetchaburi
  • Thai Mueang District, Phang Nga
  • Thalang District, Phuket
  • Thale Ban National Park
  • Thale Noi Non-hunting Area
  • Than Sadet - Koh Pha-Ngan National Park
  • Thanyaburi District, Pathum Thani
  • Thawat Buri District, Roi Et
  • Thung Tako District, Chumphon
  • Ton Pariwat Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Wapi Pathum District, Maha Sarakham
  • Wat Phai Lom & Wat Ampu Wararam Non-hunting Area
  • Yan Ta Khao District, Trang
  • Yang Talat District, Kalasin

Range map of Haliastur indus in Thailand

Important note; our range maps are based on limited data we have collected. The data is not necessarily accurate or complete.

Special thanks to Ton Smits, Parinya Pawangkhanant, Ian Dugdale and many others for their contribution for range data.

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