Black Kites at Keelbottom Creek

river with gravelly banks
Keelbottom Creek looking downstream from the bridge on Hervey’s Range Developmental Road

There’s a sharp distinction between coastal and inland landscapes in North Queensland, and you don’t have to go far from Townsville to see it: just drive up Hervey’s Range Road and at the top of the range the vegetation changes to reflect the fact that most of our rain falls on the coastal side of the mountains.

Any rain that falls on the inland side of the watershed runs, eventually, into the mighty Burdekin River, and Keelbottom Creek is one of the Burdekin’s many tributaries. It crosses the Hervey’s Range Road about 25 km from the lookout at the crest of the range and the crossing is a popular camping and fishing spot, especially around the end of the wet season . It’s a good spot for a Wildlife Queensland excursion, too, as we discovered a few weeks ago; visit the local branch’s blog for an account of the visit. (Their next walk is to the Town Common but is fully booked, as of the time of writing.)

I particularly enjoyed the chance to photograph the Black Kites (Milvus migrans) soaring above us and returning to perch in the paperbarks:

hawk in flight
Black Kite against the sky
brown hawk in tree
Black Kite at rest
hawk flying from tree
Taking flight

They are one of our commonest raptors – perhaps the commonest – but birds of prey are notoriously hard to identify at any distance. The clues for the Black Kite are the forked tail (well, the outer feathers are at least longer than the centre ones, and that is the opposite of other hawks) and the fact that the tail is often twisted in flight. They are often seen in flocks, which is also unusual for birds of prey. They are not actually black but they are darker than most of the species they could be mistaken for, and their markings are not as prominent (note, for instance, the darker wingtips of the Whistling Kite here).

creek with trees on banks
Keelbottom Creek looking upstream from the bridge on Hervey’s Range Road


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