The Whistling Kite is named for its call: a shrill, descending whistle, followed by a mad cackle of around four to seven descending notes. Whistling Kites are found all across mainland Australia with only a few pairs in Tasmania.
Like their cousins, the Black Kites, Whistling Kites are carrion eaters, but being a larger, more aggressive bird, the proportion of hunted food in their diet is higher than that of the Black Kites. Whistling Kites will hunt young rabbits, rats, small reptiles, birds and fish.
Whistling Kites can often be found scavenging alongside Black Kites, with a few Whistling Kites mixed in among a flock of Black Kites. In flight, Whistling Kites are easy to identify because of the rounded shape of the tail, as opposed to the distinctive fork of the Black Kite's tail.
The Whistling Kite's preferred habitats are bushland, scrub, wetland and open plain. They are generally not found in densely forested areas.
The bird in our photograph is "Willow," an education bird from WA Conservation of Raptors. Willow was imprinted on humans when he was very small. When Willow tried to interact with a human who didn't know him, his actions were seen as an attack. Willow was hit in the face with a stick and lost the sight in one eye. Since then, he has found a good home where he appears to be happy and content.
Cases like Willow's are among the reasons why many rehabilitators believe human-imprinted fauna should not be released back into the wild. If a wild animal approaches a human in a manner interpreted as aggressive or dangerous, the animal can be injured or even killed as a result.