Current Raptor Research

Spatial and Population Ecology of the
Letter-winged Kite

Lisa & Peter Nunn

Letter-winged Kite in flight (Peter Nunn)

The reporting rate of Letter-winged Kites in the second Birds Australia Atlas was the lowest for all Australian raptors (Garnett et al. 2011). The global population has been estimated at 1000 individuals outside of boom periods, but this estimate is hard to verify given the small number of sightings recorded in some years and lack of knowledge about the movements of individuals. A better understanding of population size, core range and movement patterns is needed to properly assess the conservation status of this species.

This project will use colour banding, behavioural observations and genetic analysis to investigate the structure of breeding colonies and aspects such as frequency of breeding, the mating system, gender roles, immigration, relatedness within and between colonies, and age at first breeding. Annual surveying and monitoring will also be conducted to provide data for assessing population trends in this rarely-encountered species, while at the same time exploring potential threatening processes such as predation by feral cats. The use of GPS transmitters is planned to give insight into the spatial ecology of the species on a larger scale.

Sightings records can help build a picture of how this species uses the landscape, as well as inform population estimates. Current or historical sightings can be reported to All information will be gratefully received and kept strictly confidential.

Environmental Lead Exposure in Raptors from mainland Australia

Jordan Hampton

2. Carcass scavenging B

There is growing worldwide recognition of the threat posed by toxic lead (Pb)-based ammunition for wildlife and humans. This has led to active research examining impacts on at-risk wildlife species in much of the world. Resultant findings indicate that lead poisoning is a leading mortality cause for some threatened raptor (birds of prey) species. Recent studies in Australia have demonstrated that harmful lead exposure is occurring in Tasmanian species, namely Tasmanian Devils and Tasmanian Wedge-tailed Eagles. There is an urgent need to apply these approaches to mainland Australia.

Jordan Hampton is a wildlife researcher analysing lead exposure in Australian birds of prey. For this project he requires samples from Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales, the ACT or Queensland of the following six scavenging species of raptors:

Wedge-tailed Eagle                             Black-breasted Buzzard

Whistling Kite                                      Little Eagle

Black Kite                                            Brown Goshawk

Jordan is soliciting dead birds from a network of museums, wind farms, zoos, wildlife rehabilitation centres, veterinary hospitals, and government departments across eastern mainland Australia. Birds found dead, that die in care, or are euthanised by veterinarians and wildlife rehabilitators due to disease or injury will be included.

If you have access to dead raptor specimens please contact Jordan:

Jordan Hampton, University of Melbourne, Animal Welfare Science Centre, corner of Flemington Rd and Park Dr, Parkville, Vic 3052

Email:, Mobile: 0497 093 754



Ecology of Wedge-tailed Eagles in the Matuwa and Mesic Zones of Western Australia

Simon Cherriman

Photo by Simon Cherriman

Simon Cherriman is studying key aspects of Wedge-tailed Eagle ecology in Western Australia through an ongoing bird-banding study at two sites: Matuwa, in the Arid Zone, and the Perth region, in the Mesic Zone, both having an area of ~2500km. Breeding territory occupancy and breeding productivity are monitored annually at each site. Data on morphometrics and breeding chronology are collected when eaglets are banded prior to fledging. The study engages with the general public via social media and encourages people to share information about banded eagle sightings to aid the acquisition of data. Simon’s research also involves an educational component with several young bird enthusiasts ‘training’ by assisting with banding and data collection. As part of the PhD research juvenile dispersal is investigated with GPS/Satellite Transmitters, which are changing the way we understand habitat use at the landscape scale. Additional information on Simon’s research project is available at:


Impacts of Urban and Agricultural habitat fragmentation on Southern Boobook

Mike Lohr

Photo by Ben Jones

Michael Lohr is currently finishing his PhD investigating factors related to urban and agricultural habitat fragmentation and their impact on Southern Boobooks.  BirdLife Australia has identified the Southern Boobook as a species which has suffered range-wide reductions in numbers across Australia and has cautioned that “further investigation is needed to understand the factors that are driving this consistent decline across regions.”  Understanding the threats facing boobooks and where these threats are most severe will help explain the ongoing decline in boobook populations and inform plans to reverse it.  The specific threats under investigation include, availability of nest hollows in fragmented environments, potential impacts on genetic structure, exposure to Toxoplasma gondii (a parasite spread by cats), and secondary poisoning with anticoagulant rodenticides.

Following some concerning findings which indicate frequent and severe rodenticide exposure in boobooks living in areas near housing and commercial development, Michael has initiated a number of other projects in an attempt to determine how anticoagulant rodenticides are impacting wildlife across Australia. This includes research that focuses on rodenticide exposure in a wider suite of native carnivorous birds across Australia.

Impacts of Urbanisation to Coastal Raptors in south-east Queensland

Vicky Thomson

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Photo by Vicky Thomson

Vicky Thomson is a PhD candidate at Griffith University researching the impacts of urbanisation to coastal raptors (Eastern Osprey, White-bellied Sea-eagle, Brahminy Kite, Whistling Kite) in south-east Queensland. Collaborating with Currumbin Wildlife Hospital, this research involves the investigation of how different illnesses and injuries relate to an urban lifestyle and how that affects their chance of successful rehabilitation and release. Birds released from the hospital have been banded, with plans underway to attach GPS trackers to gain insight into their long-term survival post-rehabilitation and release. 

Spatial Ecology of Red Goshawk in Cape York Peninsula

BARG_Red Goshawk (1)

This project is a collaboration between Rio Tinto, the Australian Wildlife Conservancy and the Queensland Depertment of Environment and Science. Led by project manager Chris MacColl this research aims to improve knowledge on the spatial ecology of the rare Red Goshawk. To date, four Red Goshawks in the Cape York Peninsula have been fitted with solar-powered GPS transmitters, providing the first high-resolution, broad-scale data set on the species movements. Initial results indicate a home range size in excess of 700km2, considerably larger than previous estimates. This data was derived from an individual continuously tracked over a two year period, demonstrating the spatial and temporal scales that can be achieved using these methods. The knowledge gained from this study has laid the foundation for developing a larger scale project that aims to more fully describe the spatial needs of this species across Northern Australia.

Square-tailed Kite, Lophoictinia isura, Australian Field Ornithology Repeat

Keith Fisher

In the 1990s and early 2000s, several breeding studies were published in Australian Field Ornitholgy by Stephen Debus, Hans Lutter and Greg Clancy. Keith Fisher is investigating the territories that were the subject of these studies and reporting on movement and changes in the region.

Keith is now halfway through this study. After one breeding season, no nests were located at the previous sites, three of which were in or near Port Macquarie and one at nearby Wauchope. There was, however, positive news from the region as two nests west of Kempsey fledged four young, and another at Coopernook, (~60 km south of Port Macquarie, had a brood of 3 and at least one of these fledged. Halfway through the study it seems breeding is being impacted by development and that the fires have also suppressed breeding for some pairs.  Now with the major flooding event of March 2021, there is even greater impetus to keep investigating until we know how the territories in the coastal region are faring. 

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