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 harbors 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.
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 They may roost
together in trees along the coast.
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. Although they do not share nesting trees, pairs may nest less
than 100 m apart.
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 the young.
Migration? Brahminy Kites are sedentary and do not migrate.
Status and threats 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.