This week I will showcase the many raptors that frequent the skies in the Kimberley. Being mostly flat arid, savanna and open woodland country, away from human habitation, it provides many opportunities for eagles, kites, harriers, kestrels and Buzzards to soar, often endlessly throughout the day. The variety and the frequency of seeing one or more is a feature up there. Many of the towns have resident Black Kite (seen above and below with the forked tail, and are actually brown and only black on the wing tips) which soar over them throughout the day. Black Kite make up the largest number followed by the Whistling Kite, White-bellied sea-Eagle, Wedged-tailed Eagle, Brown Falcon, Black-breasted Buzzard etc. Most of Australia’s raptors are represented here.
Below is a typical example of the Black Kite circling over a town in the Kimberley.
We had not started long on the long straight highway north from Broom when a Wedge-tailed Eagle was found tearing off pieces of roadkill from a brown fox. Foxes and ferule cats are introduced pests in large numbers constantly and gradually demolishing our wildlife species.
This is Australia’s largest eagle having a wingspan of 2.3 to 2.6 metres. On two past occasions I have had one of these birds spread its wings over my windscreen as it lifted in front of me travelling at speed while it was eating roadkill. It was a most memorable experience and for two seconds of not seeing ahead of me was somewhat scary, yet beautiful. So here it is resting on a Boab Tree nearby. These peculiar trees are endemic to this region of Australia. This tree is one of Australia’s few deciduous trees and currently still has fruit on it.
Here are some flight shots of the Wedgie (as us Aussies call it). You will see the wedged tail which gives this bird its name and makes it easy to spot in flight. Notice some wing damage. This is not uncommon with this bird as it suffers attack from other birds or engages in risky ventures. This eagle is featured in my books, available here online.
The Whistling Kite is another frequently seen raptor, known for its whistling sound, which is also a feature of the Black Kite, and frequently heard. The Whistlers, as we call them have a rounded tail and distinct white bands on each wing. There are numerous reptiles, small birds including passerines and freshwater aquatic species for these birds to prey on.
Here are some soaring shots of the Whistler.
Another raptor only found in this region, which we blessed to see on a few occasions was the Black-breasted Buzzard. Some might remember from a previous post how this bird would cleverly drop stones on Emu eggs to open them. It can be also identified by its distinct white bands on the wings, the rufous band behind the neck, but more so by its up turned wings, which is classic of this bird when it soars on the thermals.
Our second largest and more common eagle, the White-bellied Sea-Eagle, was seen along the many rivers and lakes in the region. It was seen guarding its nest as we cruised down the Ord River. This eagle is also featured in my books, available here online or in select stores and visitor information centres.
One exciting moment while we were having a break near Tunnel Creek, I saw a small flock of Little Corella in turmoil on the ground, and then scrambling in flight as I saw a Spotted Harrier, a bird we seldom see, attempting to take one of the birds, possibly a young one from the flock. It swooped down on one bird and missed it, and soon flew off as a car drove past. I managed to trace its path around the cliffs of the canyon. Harriers are unlike other raptors make low swift passes over the landscape, and swoop down from a low height, rather than soar high in the sky.
Sadly we did not see any Brahminy Kite on our tour, which is always a beautiful bird against a blue sky. We saw only one Australian Kestrel, at the usual spot in Broome by Cable Beach. I actually saw this bird on this lamp post six years ago. Here is a Cable Beach sunset and this is our view from our restaurant at sunset. This is one of Australia’s most iconic sunsets, and all gather at the bars and by the beach to witness it each evening. The sunset on the Ord River, and the Derby tidal flats, which has the third longest tide in the world, is another. Note the sunset artworks. The Kimberley is the place for beautiful winter sunsets.
One special feature of our tour was to stay at the exclusive accommodation on the Mitchell Plateau owned and run by Outback Spirit Tours, is this resident Brown Falcon they call Henry who visits daily for food. They are not sure if it is building a nest at present, or even if it is Henrietta. The bird was a little nervous with us watching.
One last creature, though not a bird is rather reptilian and endemic to the Top end of Australia, especially the Kimberley, is the Fresh Water Crocodile. This species with its long narrow snout is not as dangerous to humans as the deadly Saltwater variety, which may sometimes make its way on the inland rivers. They usually shy away from humans, and would only bite if trodden on or attacked. The indigenous inhabitants often swim with them in the same area without a problem. They mainly live on the freshwater fish. We saw these in many of the rivers and gorges, usually resting in the sun. We were able to walk past them only a couple of feet away without them moving.
Hope you are enjoying this series. There are more interesting posts to follow. Enjoy your week and stay safe.
Many of the world’s cultures revered the eagle as a god or divine being or messenger, and this bird today is used to denote power and strength in the coat-of-arms of defense and police. The Eagle lives longer than most birds, 20 to 30 years in the wild and another 10 or 20 in captivity. There is a myth that the Eagle can live another 40 years and renew its youth by breaking off its beak, pulling out it’s talons ans feathers and regrowing them over a 5 month period, however there is no evidence this actually occurs and that any bird could survive such an experience, though it is documented on the internet and published by Bible scholars as the process referring to Psalm 103:5
“Who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s..”
However, the eagle does undergo a plumage renewal each year, making it look young again, as it often looses feathers and looks ragged after a year of its rugged life. The bible mentions the eagle in about 34 verses of the Bible in analogy to God and to our response to God renewing power, as in the well loved verse Isaiah 40:31
It is the Lord who renews our strength with his when we hope and trust and ask him to.
This last aspect is referred to in my first book, concerning the White-bellied Sea-Eagle teaching to trust.
“like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them aloft.” – Deuteronomy 32:11
This is referring to how God cared for his people and even though they needed a little push to get flying (trusting his guidance and strength rather than acting out of their own fear), he always picks them up and brings them back as a gentle and tender father, not letting them fall or fail, giving them another opportunity to trust and and see how he always comes to our assistance when we do. This is the wonderful loving Father we have.