The Whistling Kite - Haliastur sphenurus - is a gingery brown colour and generally untidy or scruffy looking. Head and under parts are light brown with pale streaks. Dark wings with pale wing linings. Characteristic long, rounded tail in flight is plain sandy coloured with paler tips - other kites have straight or forked tails. From below, outer wing feathers are dark coloured and widely fingered. Outer wing rear feathers are pale in colour, inner wing rear feathers are darker brown. Grows 50 to 60 centimetres long, wingspan 1.2 to 1.5 metres.
Young birds, in their first year, have brown back and wings spotted with white. They have a generally untidy appearance (see photograph lower left).
Soars languidly, gliding with wings slightly drooped held forward giving short necked, long tail appearance. Rounded tail is easily seen. Soars in untidy circles.
Varied habitat. Often in wetlands but also lives in arid regions and near watercourses; in open woodlands, scrublands, farmlands, estuaries, littoral mudflats.
Found over most of mainland Australia, except for the driest parts in Western Australia. Common in the northern parts but less common in the south. Part of the northern population moves south in summer.