‘Don’t overfeed brahminy kites’

Flight plan: A brahminy kite searching for food in Kuala Sepetang near Taiping. — RONNIE CHIN/The Star

IPOH: Tourists are advised not to overfeed the brahminy kite (Haliastur indus), or lang merah, found around the mangroves of Kuala Sepetang near Taiping, says an expert.

“This is because when these birds are given unhealthy food, they tend to become fat due to the unbalanced diet, ” said Taiping Zoo and Night Safari director Dr Kevin Lazarus.

Boat operators who bring tourists to the site feed the eagles with chicken skin or fat because the bits float on water and are easier for the eagles to grab, he added.

“With such a diet, the eggs that are laid tend to have shells that are thinner due to a lack of calcium.

“So during the incubation process, when the females are sitting on the eggs, the chances of the eggs breaking are higher, ” he said.

The half reddish-brown, half-white birds are a totally protected species.

“We don’t want the number of the birds to dwindle in the long run if people continue to feed them with the wrong type of food excessively.

“It is better to feed this species with fish, but they don’t float easily, so we have to find ways on how to go about it, ” he said, adding that boat operators must also have a scheduled time of the day for bird-feeding activities.

“The brahminy kites that stay within the mangrove area sometimes come out in a group of between 40 and 50 because they know food is provided by the tour boats in a specific area of the river.

“The Taiping Municipal Council, together with the boat operators and tour guides, have been having discussions on various issues pertaining to the mangrove site, its sustainability and conservation efforts.

“In the next meeting, the issue of eagle feeding can be discussed and we should be able to find ways for a proper solution, ” Lazarus said.

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