Brahminy kite

by Pwee, Timothy

The Brahminy kite (Haliastur indus) is a medium-sized raptor or bird of prey.1 Nicknamed the “Singapore Bald Eagle”,2 it is one of the commonest raptors in Singapore, and is frequently seen in flight over urban areas and suitable sites such as Jurong Lake. Large groups also roost on some offshore islands, such as Coney Island.While it commonly hunts fish, it also feeds on carrion.

The second series of Singapore’s currency notes, issued between 1976 and 1984, featured birds. The second-highest denomination note in this series – the S$1,000 note – featured a perched Brahminy kite on the front.4 The bird also appeared on 50-cent postage stamps in 1984.5 In Malaysia, the Brahminy kite is the Iban god of war, Singalang Burung.It is also Kedah’s symbol. Langkawi is named after the Brahminy kite.7

Description
The Brahminy kite is a distinctive-looking bird with its rich chestnut brown body and wings, and white head and breast. In flight, its black wing tips and rounded tail base are visible. It calls with a high-pitched mew.8 Its size ranges from 44 to 52 cm. Juveniles are dark brown overall, with pale streaks on their underparts.9

Reproduction
For nesting, the bird typically uses emergent trees in mangroves. It also nests in casuarina trees. Nests are between 60 and 90 cm wide and lined with dried mud. The building and repair of nests occur from late October to March. The bird’s eggs are a dull chalky white, and are laid either between December and March, or in mid-June. Usually two chicks are raised between January to mid-August, but mostly in the earlier part of the season.10

Diet
The Brahminy kite typically hunts for fish above water. However, it is opportunistic and will take small birds, amphibians, carrion and even flying termites. The bird is also kleptoparasitic, in that it will snatch food from other raptors. It often eats while in flight.11

Habitat and range
The Brahminy kite lives along the coast, especially where there are mangroves and mudflats. It can also be found inland where there are open spaces like paddy land and old dredge mines, or over larger rivers and canals.12 Found throughout Southeast Asia, its range extends from India in the east to New Guinea, the Bismarck islands and Australia in the west.13

In Singapore, it can be found at Kranji Marshes,14 and West Coast Park.15

Variant names
Scientific names: Haliastur indusMilvus indus16
English names: Red-backed kite17

Malay names: Helang kembara merah (“blood-coloured eagle”);18 Lang kawi (“reddish-brown eagle”);19 Lang tikus; Lang merah20
Chinese name: 栗鸢 (Li yuan)21 (“Chestnut kite”)



Author
Timothy Pwee 



References
1. Wells, D. R. (1999). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula (Vol. 1). San Diego, CA: Academic Press, p. 134. (Call no.: RSING 598.0959 WEL)
2. Whyte, E., (2013, February 19). Eye on the Eagle. The Straits Times, p. 20; Singapore wildlife. (2007, February 6). The Straits Times, p. 128. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Lim, K. S., & Chew, J. (2010). A field guide to the birds of Singapore. Singapore: Nature Society, p. 10. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 LIM); Yong, D. L., & Lim, K. C. (2016). A naturalist’s guide to the birds of Singapore. Oxford, England: John Beaufoy Publishing, p. 34. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 YON)
4. Board of Commissioners of Currency, Singapore (1994). Singapore Money Book. Singapore: Moneyworld Asia, p. 35. (Call no.: RSING 769.5595957 SIN); Wee, Y. C., Tan, W. K., & Wang, L. K. (2011). One for the birds: Singapore stamps & money. Singapore: Tan Wee Kiat, pp. 8, 12. (Call no.: RSING 769.5695957 WEE)
5. Singapore Postage Stamps Catalogue (3rd edition) (2011). Singapore: CS Philatelic Agency, p. 63. (Call no.: RSING 769.5695957 SPSC)
6. Oon, H. (2008). Wildlife guide Malaysia. London: New Holland, p. 98. (Call no.: RSEA 639.909595 WGM)
7. Ponnampalam, A. (2000, September 5). A national bird for Malaysia? The New Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from ProQuest via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Chew, D. (2011, September 6). The jewel of KedahThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Lim, K. S. (1997). Birds: An illustrated field guide to the birds of Singapore. Singapore: Sun Tree Publishing, p. 73. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 LIM); Wells, D. R. (1999). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula (Vol. 1).  San Diego, CA: Academic Press, p. 136. (Call no.: RSING 598.0959 WEL); Yong, D. L., & Lim, K. C. (2016). A naturalist’s guide to the birds of Singapore. Oxford, England: John Beaufoy Publishing, p. 34. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 YON)
9. Yong, D. L., & Lim, K. C. (2016). A naturalist’s guide to the birds of Singapore. Oxford, England: John Beaufoy Publishing, p. 34. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 YON)
10. Wells, D. R. (1999). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula (Vol. 1). San Diego, CA: Academic Press, p. 136. (Call no.: RSING 598.0959 WEL); Strange, M. (1990, October 7). The gregarious Kite that swoops and killsThe Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Wells, D. R. (1999). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula (Vol. 1). San Diego, CA: Academic Press, p. 135. (Call no.: RSING 598.0959 WEL); Iqbal, M., Mulyono. H., Takari, H. & Anwar, K. Aerial Feeding on a Large Prey Item by a Brahminy Kite: Haliastur indus. Australian Field Ornithology, 26(1/2), 3335. Retrieved from PERIND via NLB’s eResources: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
12. Hails, C. & Jarvis, F. (2018). Birds of Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 61. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 HAI)
13. Wells, D. R. (1999). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula (Vol. 1). San Diego, CA: Academic Press, pp. 134–135. (Call no.: RSING 598.0959 WEL); Yong, D. L., & Lim, K. C. (2016). A naturalist’s guide to the birds of Singapore. Oxford, England: John Beaufoy Publishing, p. 34. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 YON)
14. National Parks Board (2018). Birds of Our Wetlands: A Journey through Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. Singapore: National Parks Board, p. 113. (Call no.: RSING 779.328095957 BIR)
15. National Parks Board, (2013). Flora Fauna Web – Animal Detail – Haliastur indus. Retrieved 2019, July 18 from National Parks Board website: https://florafaunaweb.nparks.gov.sg/Special-Pages/animal-detail.aspx?id=684
16. Wells, D. R. (1999). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula (Vol. 1). San Diego, CA: Academic Press, p. 134. (Call no.: RSING 598.0959 WEL); Lim, K. S., & Chew, J. (2010). A field guide to the birds of Singapore. Singapore: Nature Society, p. 10. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 LIM)
17. Wang, L. K. & Hails, C. J. (2007, April 30). An Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Singapore. The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, 2007 (Suppl. 15), p. 99. Retrieved 2019, July 18 from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum website: https://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/app/uploads/2017/04/s15rbz001-179.pdf
18. Yong, D. L., & Lim, K. C. (2016). A naturalist’s guide to the birds of Singapore. Oxford, England: John Beaufoy Publishing, p. 34. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 YON)
19. Chew, D. (2011, September 6). The jewel of KedahThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Wang, L. K. & Hails, C .J. (2007, April 30). An Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Singapore. The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, 2007 (Suppl. 15), p. 99.  Retrieved 2019, July 18 from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum website: https://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/app/uploads/2017/04/s15rbz001-179.pdf
21. Yong, D. L., & Lim, K. C. (2016). A naturalist’s guide to the birds of Singapore. Oxford, England: John Beaufoy Publishing, p. 34. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 YON)


Further resources 
Bucknill, J. A., & Chasen, F. N. (1990). Birds of Singapore and South-east Asia. Scotland: Tynron Press. 

(Call no.: RSING 598.095957 BUC)

Lim, K. S. (1999). Pocket checklist of the birds of the Republic of Singapore. Singapore: Nature Society, Bird Group Records Committee.

Available via PublicationSG.

Madoc, G. C. (1956). An introduction to Malayan birds. Kuala Lumpur: Malayan Nature Society. 

(Call no.: RCLOS 598.29595 MAD)

Yong, H. S. (1998). The encyclopedia of Malaysia (Vol. 3). Singapore: Archipelago Press.

(Call no.: RU q959.5003 ENC)

Robson, C. (2015). Birds of South-East Asia (2nd ed.). London, Christopher Helm, p. 171. (Call no.: RSING 598.0959 ROB)

Ng, P. K. L., Corlett, R. T. & Tan, H. T. W. (2011). Singapore Biodiversity: An Encyclopedia of the Natural Environment and Sustainable Development. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet, p. 218 –219. (Call no.: RSING 333.95095957 SIN)



The information in this article is valid as at July 2019 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Birds of prey--Singapore
Wildlife
Birds--Singapore
Nature>>Animals
Science and technology>>Zoology>>Birds