It is that time of year when I visit a certain gully in the Perth hills to check the breeding progress of the family of Square-tailed Kites I've been monitoring for the past few years. This species, known as Mararl or Djedurnmalak in the Noongar language, is one of my favourite raptors, so I was very excited to reach the nest and find a female kite sitting, a good sign it was active again! When I ascended the nest tree, I found the female had something to be very proud of...
The first thing that went through my mind was the voice of my good friend Ewan, a raptor biologist from Scotland, saying "It's a Red Kite chick you little bloody ripper!!" (This came from our visit to the nest of a Red Kite, a species very similar to the Australian Square-tailed Kite but one in a different genus, during my time in Scotland last year). The second thing I thought was - "W-O-W!!". These two exceptionally beautiful and well-grown kite chicks are about a month old, their wing feathers well emerged and body feathers gradually covering up their natal down. It will take about a three more weeks before they are ready to fledge.
|The younger kite chick has slightly more natal down still showing.|
|The older kite chick with its very flash 'mohawk'!|
As I was about to leave the tree, the female kite's behaviour changed, as though she seemed to want to tell me something. I sat for a few more minutes, and the goosebumps spread across me as she walked to the edge of the nest, flapped towards me and landed on a perch less than a metre away! She then proceeded to perch and look at me, as gentle and placid as ever, as though jogging her memories of previous time we've spent in the canopy together, and scan around the bush, perhaps in anticipation of her mate returning with food.
It was wonderful to find the kites have nested again, and that everything is on track for successful fledging. They still remain one of my most favourite birds.