The square-tailed kite chick, dubbed Squrt, was within a week of fledging when it was discovered in the Perth foothills. “I was amazed at the calm nature of the bird and instantly took a liking to her,” says Simon. “I couldn’t wait to get her back to her nest.” Generally, nests are found in large eucalypts along or near watercourses on large, horizontal tree limbs.

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    After nearly an hour of searching the gully near where Squrt was found, Simon spotted a large wandoo (white gum). “There, in a fork on the lowest horizontal limb, sat an adult square-tailed kite with its large chick on a bulky mass of sticks,” says Simon. He set up his ropes and began climbing towards the nest.

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    The nest was precariously balanced on one of the wandoo’s horizontal limbs, about 10m above the ground.

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    As Simon safely placed Squrt back in its nest, an adult square-tailed kite, with its hooked bill, pale head and characteristic red-brown markings, curiously looked on. “The adult watched its offspring flop clumsily forward into the nest cavity, then seconds later shuffled closer to it and looked down as if to say, ‘Where the hell have you been?’ “

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    Another chick was also in the nest (at right). “Squrt’s sibling reacted by raising its crest feathers and gaping, the classic threat posture adopted by many birds of prey when humans are close to their nest,” says Simon.

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    “The most enjoyable thing for me was getting to experience this species up close, and getting to know their placid, accepting nature,” says Simon, who was surprised by how calm this adult female square-tailed kite was as he approached her nest. “Having worked on a variety of other raptors and knowing that they generally are very shy and that it’s hard to remain hidden without them detecting you, it was such a buzz to meet one so calm.”

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    While searching for Squrt’s nest, Simon discovered a little eagle (Hieraaetus morphnoides) chick high in the canopy of a red gum. “What a sight,” says Simon. “The little eagle chick was only days old. It was tiny, not much bigger than the palm of my hand, and covered in a fine, smoky-grey natal down.”

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    The view from the gully in which the kites were nesting takes in Perth’s outer suburbs.

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    Twenty-four hours after Simon safely returned Squrt to her mother and sibling, he revisited the nest. “I returned to find both kite chicks still on their nest,” he says. “I nearly fell out of the tree when the adult female square-tailed kite walked to the edge of the nest, reach out with her beak and touched my hand gently.”

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    When Simon revisited the nest the day after Squrt’s reunion, both chicks had a bulging crop (a muscular pouch near the birds’ throats, where food is stored prior to digestion). This indicates they were being well fed. “All the signs were good for both chicks to fledge successfully,” says Simon.

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Gallery: Square-tailed kite back to the wild

By AG STAFF | June 6, 2013

The mission to return a fallen square-tailed kite chick to its nest resulted in stunning photography.