Raptors of the district

Black Kite – note the forked tail

With open plains, water bodies and forests this area is home to a variety of raptors. Like other bird species, a little knowledge of behaviour and habitat can help in identifying the various species, some of which are hard to separate at times.

Widespread across the open plains and farmland the most common species are the Whistling Kite, Black Kite, Brown Falcon, Kestrel and Black-shouldered Kite. If you are lucky you might also see the Australasian Hobby or the Black Falcon. The best raptor country is around the Moolort Plains and a little further afield on the road from Newstead towards Clunes.

Nankeen Kestrel

Black-shouldered Kite juvenile – note brown head

Both the Kestrel and the Black-shouldered Kite hover over the ground as they hunt for food. They are expert at holding a position with hardly a wing flicker if the wind is blowing. Quite remarkable to watch.

Whistling Kite

To give some idea of scale here is a Wedge-tailed Eagle being harassed by a Whistling Kite

The Brown Falcon has a variety of colour gradations from very pale to quiet dark. Although a falcon like the Peregrine and Hobby, it is a much slower flier. It is common in grazing areas and open country and is known to be a good snake catcher.

Brown Falcon – pale morph

Brown Falcon – dark morph

Swamp Harrier 

Bothe the Swamp and the Spotted Harriers can be seen in the district. Both favour areas around water but can also be seen quartering pastures and gran crops looking for food. The Swamp Harrier has a distinctive White rump. Flight tends to be slow on upswept wings.

Brown Goshawk

The forests are frequented by the Brown Goshawk and Collared Sparrowhawk. These two species are quire hard to tell apart – even experienced birders sometimes have trouble as evidenced on Facebook groups concerned with bird identification. Both are also common around town in Castlemaine. We often see them in our central garden.

Another lesser know forest dweller is the Square-tailed Kite. It can be seen skimming the tree-tops in search of prey. In this area it can be seen around Rise and Shine and the Muckleford Forest. It has a white head which helps in differentiating it from the Whistling Kite.

Square-tailed Kite

More likely to be seen near cliffs and high vantage points is the spectacular Peregrine Falcon – the fastest bird clocked at 390kmh in a dive. In this are it can be seen around Mt Alexander, although I have also seen it out on the Moolort Plains. They also breed on tall building in cities with a well-known site in Melbourne.

Peregrine Falcon

Also to be seen in open country is the Hobby – in some ways a smaller version of the peregrine, with pointed wings and rapid flight. The Hobby can be identified by its brownish breast.

One thought on “Raptors of the district”

  1. Thanks Damian,
    Another well written piece, this time on my favourite birds. Great to see you writing again, I hope that this means that you are up and around again?
    Talk soon,
    Bruce

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