Scavenger birds familiar sight

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 July, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 July, 1997, 12:00am

The Black Kite (or Black Eared Kite) is one of the most familiar of Hong Kong's birds, often seen gliding above the hills or harbour.

You will be able to recognise it by the fork in its tail. Other birds of prey in Hong Kong - buzzards, eagles, harriers and falcons - have square or rounded tails.

The adult Black Kite is dark brown with pale areas under its wings. The juvenile bird appears much lighter, as the underparts have extensive creamy yellow streaks.

The kite calls frequently with a shrill scream.

It scavenges for food in the harbour and hunts over hillsides. The Black Kite feeds mainly on dead fish, but also rats, frogs, snakes and insects.

The kite builds a nest of sticks and rubbish, including plastic and waste paper, high in trees and lays two or three eggs each spring.

The eggs are incubated for about 30 days and once hatched, the young kites take about six weeks to fledge - the term used to describe the time a young bird is strong enough to leave the nest.

Some young still depend heavily on their parents for food even after they can fly.

In winter, up to 1,000 Black Kites can be seen in Hong Kong, as migrants from other parts of Asia join the resident population. In summer, there may only be 300 kites in Hong Kong.

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