Habitats best suited to Brahminy Kites are broad mudflats such as those
found in mangroves, estuaries and coasts. They are also found in freshwater
wetlands such as ricefields and marshes. In Singapore, they are also found
inland near water and even in cultivated areas (gardens, parks). They may
roost together in trees along the coast.
Lang Merah/Tikus (Malay)
Brahminy Kite is a familiar bird of prey and often referred to as
the Singapore Bald Eagle.
Brahminy Kites are more scavengers than hunters. But they also hunt
for small prey (fish, crabs, shellfish, frogs, rodents, reptiles,
even insects). They forage both over water and land, soaring 20-50m
above the surface.
Prey on the water surface is snatched with their talons, Brahminy
Kites don't dive into the water. They may even snatch swarming termites
on the wing with their talons.
They scavenge from food scraps and garbage and are thus quite common
at harbours and coastal fish/food processing sites.
But Brahminy Kites don't just passively forage. They flush shorebirds
roosting on the mudflats into flight to identify the weak. They are
attracted to fires to catch any fleeing animals. They may steal from
other raptors including large ones like the White-bellied Fish Eagle.
Their catch is eaten on the wing, to prevent theft. When several quarrel
over a meal, they squeal.
and wetland wildlife at
Sungei Buloh Nature Park
features: Medium (43-51cm), wings long broad rounded;
tail short and rounded when fanned. Head, neck, breast
white; rest of body bright chestnut; primaries tipped
black; feet yellow.
From below chestnut wing coverts contrast with paler brown
flight feathers; wingtips black; tail pale.
From above: all chestnut except primaries, base pale and
Uniformly dark brown plumage; white parts streaked with
buff. In flight, pale patch at base of primaries.
Call: Described as a thin mewing scream kweeaa
or kyeeer usually while soaring.
In flight: Long but broadly
angled wings. Slow deep flapping.
Similar birds: Juveniles hard to distinguish from
visiting Black Kite (which has a square tail) and resident
Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster). The mature
White-bellied's white extends to the belly, wings and
tail and the rest is grey instead of bronze.
Status in Singapore: Very
common resident throughout, including North and South
World distribution: Coastal
areas in India through China to the Philippines and Australia.
Classification: Family Accipitridae.
World 240 species, Singapore 27 species.
Breeding: During mating season (November-December),
Brahminy Kites perform aerial acrobatics. They mate on or near the nest.
Brahminy Kites prefer to nest in mangroves, usually in tall emergent trees.
Some use dead trees (perhaps the tree was alive when it was first used as
a nest site). On swampy sites that are more secure from land predators,
they may nest as low as 5-6 m. But on dry land, usually at 20-25 m. In Singapore,
they also nest along the coasts in casuarina trees, and near reservoirs.
Although they do not share nesting trees, pairs may nest less than 100 m
Their nest is compact and made of twigs and sticks, usually 60-90 cm wide
and 15-30 cm deep. The nest is often lined with dried mud. A first-time
nest is usually thin, but as the pair reuse the site, the nest thickens.
2 eggs are laid, white with sparse red-brown blotches. Both parents raise
Migration? Brahminy Kites are sedentary
and do not migrate.
and threats: Brahminy Kites are very common in Singapore
mostly because they are very tolerant of humans. Being unfussy scavengers
also allow them to survive in a wide range of habitats, but they still
require mangroves for nesting sites. In nearby Java, however, they
are rarely seen; we don't know why. Elsewhere, while they are still
commonly seen along mangrove coasts, their numbers are declining due
to habitat loss. They are also hunted in Thailand, along with other
kites, and their young taken for pets. Their tendency to raid prawn
and fish farms, and even steal chickens, also cause them to be considered
as pests in some areas.
is believed that their name Brahminy results from their association
with the Indian God Vishnu.
To the Iban of Malaysia it is the Bird-God of War. The Brahminy
Kite's presence is an omen to guide them in major decisions such
on warfare and house building.
- Morten Strange,
"A Photographic Guide to Birds of Malaysia and Singapore: including
Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Borneo", Periplus, 2000
(p. 73: description, voice, habits, distribution, status, photo).
- Morten Strange,
"Tropical Birds of Malaysia and Singapore", Periplus
Editions, 2000 (p.11: habits, habitat, photo).
- David R Wells,
"The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Vol. 1 (Non-Passarines)",
Academic Press, 1999 (p. 134-136: identification, distribution map,
habits, habitat, migration, conservation).
- Morten Strange,
"Birds of Southeast Asia: A photographic guide to the birds
of Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia",
New Holland, 1998 (p. 18: photo, facts)
- Lim Kim Seng and
Dana Gardner, "Birds: An Illustrated Field Guide to the Birds
of Singapore", Sun Tree Publishing Ltd., 1997 (p. 73: identification,
status in Singapore, distribution, diagram, number of species).
- G W H Davison
and Chew Yen Fook, "A Photographic Guide to Birds of Peninsular
Malaysia and Singapore", New Holland Publishers Ltd., 1995
(p. 23: identification, status in Singapore, distribution, photo).
- Morten Strange
and Allen Jeyarajasingam, "Birds: A Photographic Guide to the
Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore", Sun Tree Publishing,
1993 (p. 114: description, distribution, habits, habitat, photo).
- Clive Briffett,
"A Guide to the Common Birds of Singapore", BP Science
Centre,1992 (p. 52: habit, habitat).
- Lim Kim Seng,
"Vanishing Birds of Singapore", Nature Society (Singapore),
1992 (p. 6: status in Singapore).
- Christopher Hails,
"Birds of Singapore" illustrated by Frank Jarvis, Times
Editions, 1987 reprinted 1995 (p. 61: habits, description, status in
Singapore, and lovely drawings of the birds).
- Lim Kim Seng,
"Pocket Checklist of the Birds of the Republic of Singapore",
Nature Society (Singapore), 1999 (Abundance, status, Chinese and Malay
- M W F Tweedie,
"Common Birds of the Malay Peninsula", Longman,1970
(p. 18: description, distribution, habits, habitat, drawing).
- G C Madoc, "An
Introduction to Malayan Birds", Malayan Nature Society, 1947
(p. 64: description, habits, habitat).
- Sir John A S Bucknill
and E N Chasen, "Birds of Singapore and South-East Asia",
Tynron Press, 1927, edition 1990 (p. 98-100: identification, status
in Singapore, distribution, field notes on habits, drawings).
- Prof. Dr. Yong
Hoi Sen (ed.), "The Encyclopedia of Malaysia: Animals";
Birds of Prey by Siti Hawa bt Yatim, Editions Didier Millet, 1998 (p.
42-43: habits, habitats, traditional Iban beliefs about the bird).