Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tasmanian White Hawk

Plover's eggs

The Tasmanian White Hawk is a magnificent bird and yesterday afternoon I watched a bird of like description circling my house. The white is a species of raptor and is a rare and endangered species.

"There are only 150 pairs of them in the state. They are the only pure white hawk in the world and shooting them carries a fine in excess of $15,000," reported Linda Smith in The Mercury (2 Feb 2009)
She told of a hawk found near Hobart with shotgun pellets in its chest. It has been taken to a vet and hopefully survived.

What amazed me about my sighting was that until yesterday morning I had never heard of a White Hawk but as part of my research into Tasmania’s history, I had been reading The History of Tasmania written by John West in 1852.
In the section in Zoology West writes:

The beautiful white hawk (Astur Novae Hollandiae, Cuv.) erroneously called an albino by Mr Gould, once very abundant is now becoming rare, having been nearly extirpated by the sake of its skin by the zeal of bird collectors.

Later in the day, when I was in the garden in Grindelwald, I heard the frantic cries of a plover (masked lapwing) overhead. Looking up I saw a very large grey/white bird gracefully circling the area with a (comparatively small) plover flapping around it, screeching. Plovers (also fully protected by law) are medium-sized conspicuous birds with loud, penetrating calls.

Only a couple of weeks ago the plover fledged 3 chicks from a clutch of 4 eggs in my garden and whenever I walked outdoor the pair of plovers would swoop down and scream at me.
It was obvious the hawk was circling in search of a meal and the pair of plovers knew it.

With a broad wingspan, greyish white underneath, the bird glided unperturbed. Its movements were like that of a condor.

I watched until it drifted away and felt privileged to have seen such a rare specimen, I wondered however if this was a true white hawk because of its rareity or if it was one of the sea-eagles which nest on the Tamar Valley not many miles from where I live.

Pics: plovers eggs in the garden and hatched chick
Note: I am told that plovers eggs are not white but dark and speckled. I can assure you however that these are the eggs which the plover sat on and the fledgling chics are definitely plovers.


Terry said...

I saw a white hawk over my house in Kingston Tas today 3/4/2010 I had never seen one before.

Margaret Muir said...

Good to know they are still around, Terry.

Anonymous said...

Margaret, What happened to the 4th egg?

Plover eggs are the same colour as the chicks, speckled brown.

Margaret Muir said...

The fourth egg never hatched. I left if where it was in the nest and it eventually disappeared.
Again, I can assure the eggs in the photo are the ones the plover sat on.

John said...

We have a pair of White Hawks that I see once or twice a week. We have just moved here to Upper Esk from Adelaide only 2 months ago. I hope they are a breeding pair. We also have 3 Wedgetails that soar overhead frequently.

Rebecca Davis said...

I understand this is an old blog but I would just like to mention I have also seen a white hawk, in Ulverstone, it lives in trees behind my parents house on Hazelwoods hill but it also visited the trees at the back of my property near Haywoods reserve today. It is being chased/ harrassed by a crow at the moment. My parents say they often see the hawk being harrassed by crows up their backyard. I hope there is a pair and not just one as they are beautiful.

M. C. Muir said...

Good to hear that they are around on the North coast. Thank you for your comment.

Jones said...

Just saw a pair of them driving past Tunbridge. 4/2/2017

Anonymous said...

Beautiful one in our backyard last couple of days in Kempton... Unfortunately after baby chick's but a thrill to see all the same ��

Anonymous said...

I saw a one today and it landed on my deck. I live in Newstead

M. C. Muir said...

Nice to know they are around the city.