The Rescue and Release of the Square-tailed Kite

Pam Kenway, Grafton

The Square-tailed Kite is classified as ‘vulnerable’ in NSW, but I have been lucky enough to have had a successful breeding pair nesting in one of the trees on the Grafton District Golf Club over the past 4 years. I say “I have been lucky enough”, because the golf course is the grid where I do my atlassing- latitude 29 degrees 45 mins, and longitude 152 degrees 55 mins.

One or two eggs are laid in winter, and are incubated for about 40 days. The nestlings remain in the nest for about 8 weeks and even after the birds are able to fly, they remain dependent on the adults for a further two months. The Kites feed mainly on small birds and insects taken from the leafy canopy of the trees.

This year two chicks were observed in the nest. A month ago one of the greens staff at the Grafton District Golf Club found one of the young Square-tailed Kites on the ground. Presumably it had fallen from the large stick nest high in the tree above and was unable to fly. After a call to WIRES, it was collected from the golf course and it was taken to two local vets for assessment. As there was nothing obviously wrong, it went into local care for some R&R. However, it was unusually docile and it was also noted that one of the wings wasn’t quite ‘right’. After over a week with no change, it was sent to Currumbin Wildlife Hospital for professional rehabilitation.

Last Tuesday the WIRES rescuer arrived back at the golf course with a very large cardboard box- the Kite was back, and ready to be released at the site where it was first found. As soon as the box was in place and the lid gently pulled back, the Kite was off and away- its huge wings lifting it with ease. Not far away it came to rest (a bit awkwardly) on a branch, and there it stayed taking in its ‘new’ surroundings. Soon afterwards, the sibling Square-tailed Kite flew overhead. Hopefully, at least for the next couple of months, both immature Kites will now be seen majestically soaring in the skies over the golf course.


Square-tailed Kite. Photo: Pam Kenway