Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus)

Brahminy Kite

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Haliastur indus | [authority] Boddaert, 1783 | [UK] Brahminy Kite | [FR] Milan sacre | [DE] Brahminenweih | [ES] Milano brahm | [NL] Brahmaanse Wouw


Monotypic species


Members of the genus Haliastur are large kites, having moderately long and slightly pointed wings; a longish, rounded tail, and short, heavy legs. The hook of the beak is more pronounced than in any other kite genus.
The genus, which is related to but less specialised than Milvus (Black Kites and Red Kites), contains, like that species, two members, the Whistling Kite, and the Brahminy Kite. Its range is restricted to Australia and neighbouring islands.

Physical charateristics

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. Beak of Haliastur showing the characteristic circular nostrilThe 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

Listen to the sound of Brahminy Kite

[audio: Kite.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 109 cm wingspan max.: 124 cm
size min.: 45 cm size max.: 51 cm
incubation min.: 26 days incubation max.: 27 days
fledging min.: 48 days fledging max.: 55 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 3  


Oriental Region, Australasia : Pakistan to North Australia. The Brahminy Kite lives throughout tropical Asia east from India to South China, the islands of the East Indies to New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, and the coast of northern Australia.


It is a bird which prefers wet areas, and so in mainland Asia, where it will breed at altitudes of up to 8,000 feet (2,400 metres), it is almost invariably near inland waterways and lakes, in the islands and in Australia it is to be found mostly in the coastal regions or near rivers. The only exception to this is in New Guinea, where it occurs at altitudes up to 7,500 feet (2,300 metres)


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 wet. 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.

Feeding habits

The Brahminy Kite is quite a cosmopolitan feeder. It regularly feeds on frogs, small snakes, crabs, insects and fish. It also takes carrion and offal, and collects small scraps in wet places. Generally, apart from insects which it takes on the wing, most food is taken on the ground, but some from water – it can be an effective fisher with action not unlike that of the African Fish Eagle

Video Brahminy Kite


copyright: Stefan Behrens


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
The Brahminy Kite is a bird which prefers to be near water. It is especially common in some coastal areas and near large areas of rice fields. In India and some other rice-growing areas it is very common where humans are to be found, being even more numerous than Black Kites near some of India’s eastern seaports. Near the paddy fields it is the most common bird of prey. The Australian residents are often more shy of humans, and many are to be found in areas of river away from the coast, although some do frequent harbours and seaports. In some seaport areas it is as much a scavenger as black kites but, inland, is a much cleaner feeder. In the rice fields, the Brahminy Kite continually quarters the area, very much like a harrier, with a light, easy flight. From time to time it swoops down to pick up a piece of food, or to drop on a small animal. Small prey is often snatched from the ground, or even from on or near the surface of the water without pausing from flight. In some areas, large numbers of kites can be seen perched in trees. From this vantage point they make a number of short flights to catch food. The also occasionally soar over harbours and perch in ships’ rigging.
Brahminy Kite status Least Concern


In Australia and Asia mostly resident, with some local movements; congregates round and abundant food. Breeding pairs sedentary. Occasional visitor to N Vanuatu.

Distribution map

Brahminy Kite distribution range map

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