- Art Gallery -

Haliastur indus

Haliastur indus (*)

Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Classis: Aves
Subclassis: Carinatae
Infraclassis: Neornithes
Parvclassis: Neognathae
Ordo: Falconiformes
Familia: Accipitridae
Subfamilia: Milvinae
Genus: Haliastur
Species: Haliastur indus
Subspecies: H. i. flavirostris - H. i. girrenera - H. i. indus - H. i. intermedius


Haliastur indus (Boddaert, 1783)


* Table des Planches Enluminéez d'Histoire Naturelle de M. D'Aubenton. p.25

Vernacular names
Bahasa Melayu: Burung Helang Merah
Česky: Luňák brahmínský
English: Brahminy Kite
Español: Milano indio
Magyar: Brahmin kánya
Nederlands: Brahmaanse wouw


The Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus), also known as the Red-backed Sea-eagle, 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 primarily in the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia and Australia.


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 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.[2] The two genera are however very close.[3]

The call is a mewing keeyew.[2]


The Brahminy Kite was first described by the Dutch naturalist Pieter Boddaert in 1783. Four subspecies are recognized:

* indus (Boddaert, 1783) is found in South Asia
* flavirostris Condon & Amadon, 1954 is found in the Solomon Islands
* girrenera (Vieillot, 1822) is found in New Guinea, Bismarck Archipelago and Australia
* intermedius Blyth, 1865 is found in the Malay Peninsula and into the islands of the Sundas, Sulawesi and the Philippines

Distribution and status

This kite is a familiar sight in the skies of Sri Lanka, 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.[4]

They are mainly seen in the plains but can sometimes occur above 5000 feet in the Himalayas.[5]

It is evaluated as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. However the species is on the decline in some parts such as Java.[6]


The breeding season in South Asia is from December to April.[7] In southern and eastern Australia, it is August to October, and April to June in the north and wet.[8] The nests are constructed of small branches and sticks with a bowl inside and lines with leaves, and are sited in various trees, often mangroves.[8] 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.[9][10] A clutch of two dull white or bluish-white oval eggs measuring 52 x 41 mm is laid.The nests are constructed of small branches and sticks with a bowl inside and lines with leaves, and are sited in various trees, often mangroves.[8]

It is mainly a scavenger, feeding mainly on dead fish and crabs, especially in wetlands and marshland[7] but occasionally hunts live prey such as hares and bats.[11] They may also indulge in kleptoparasitism and attempt to steal prey from other birds.[12]

Young birds may indulge in play behaviour, dropping leaves and attempting to catch them in the air.[13] When fishing over water, they may sometimes land in the water but manage to swim and take off without much trouble.[14]

They roost communally on large and isolated trees and as many as 600 have been seen at just one location.[15]

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.[16]

A number of ectoparasitic bird lice in the genera Kurodaia, Colpocephalum and Degeeriella have been reported.[17]

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 Shree Garuda, the carrier of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Krishna. 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.[18]


1. ^ BirdLife International (2004). Haliastur indus. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 12 May 2006.
2. ^ a b Rasmussen, PC & JC Anderton (2005) Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide. Smithsonian Institution and Lynx Edicions. Vol 2. p. 86
3. ^ Wink M, Sauer-Gürth H 2000 Advances in the molecular systematics of African Raptors. In: Chancellor RD, Meyburg B-U (eds) Raptors at Risk, (R.D. Chancellor & B.-U. Meyburg, Eds). WWGBP/HancockHouse. pp 135-147 PDF
4. ^ Hill,LA (1966) Heralders of the monsoon. Newsl. for Birdwatchers 6(8):6-7.
5. ^ Dodsworth,PTL (1912) Extension of the habitat of the Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus). J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 21(2):665-666
6. ^ van Balen, B. S., I. S. Suwelo, D. S. Hadi, D. Soepomo, R. Marlon, and Mutiarina. 1993. Decline of the Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus on Java. Forktail 8:83-88.
7. ^ a b Whistler, Hugh (1949) Popular Handbook of Indian Birds. p. 370-371
8. ^ a b c Beruldsen, G (2003). Australian Birds: Their Nests and Eggs. Kenmore Hills, Qld: self. p. 200. ISBN 0-646-42798-9.
9. ^ Balachandran,S; Sakthivel,R (1994) Site-fidelity to the unusual nesting site of Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus (Boddaert). J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 91(1):139
10. ^ Morrison, William; Rosalind,Lima; Balachandran,S (1992) Unusual nesting site of Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 89(1):117-118
11. ^ Manakadan, Ranjit; Natarajan,V (1992) Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus (Boddaert) preying on bats. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 89(3):367
12. ^ Kalsi, R S & Rahul Kaul (1992). "Kleptoparasitism by Brahminy Kite on Purple Herons". Newsletter for Birdwatchers 32 (12): 8. http://www.archive.org/stream/NLBW32_12#page/n11/mode/1up.
13. ^ Neelakantan,KK (1953) Juvenile Brahminy Kites (Haliastus indus) learning things the modern way. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 51(3):739
14. ^ Prater,SH (1926) Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus swimming. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 31(2):526
15. ^ Foulkes,R (1905) A congregation of Brahminy Kites Haliastur indus. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 16(4):757
16. ^ Rajan,S Alagar; Balasubramanian,P; Natarajan,V (1992) Eastern Steppe Eagle Aquila rapax nipalensis Hodgson killing mobbing Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus (Boddaert) at Pt. Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary, Tamil Nadu. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 89(2):247-248
17. ^ Emerson KC & R A Ward (1958). "Notes on Philippine Mallophaga. I. Species from Ciconiiformes, Anseriformes, Falconiformes, Galliformes, Gruiformes and Charadriiformes". Fieldiana Zoology 42 (4). http://www.archive.org/stream/notesonphilippin424emer#page/n5/mode/2up.
18. ^ Hadden, p. 244

Cited texts

* Hadden, Don (2004). Birds and Bird Lore of Bougainville and the North Solomons. Alderley, Qld: Dove Publications. ISBN 0-9590257-5-8.

Other sources

* Jayabalan,JA (1995) Breeding ecology of Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus in Cauvery Delta, south India. Ph.D. Dissertation, Bharathidasan University. Mannampandal, Tamil Nadu.
* Raghunathan,K (1985) Miscellaneous notes: a peculiar feeding habit of Brahminy Kite. Blackbuck. 1(3), 26-28.
* Nayak,Geetha (1999) Brahminy Kite feeding on honey from an active bees hive. Newsl. for Birdwatchers 39(3), 52.
* Jayakumar,S (1987) Feeding ecology of wintering Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) near Point Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary. M.Sc. Thesis, Bharathidasan University, Tiruchirapalli.
* Hicks, R. K. 1992. Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus fishing? Muruk 5:143-144.
* van Balen, B. S., and W. M. Rombang. 2001. Nocturnal feeding by Brahminy Kites. Australian Bird Watcher 18:126.

Biology Encyclopedia

Birds Images

Source: Wikispecies, Wikipedia: All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License