The population of Hong Kong’s black kites, commonly known as “eagles”, which move south to the city every winter, is expected to drop by 15 to 20 per cent. An ecological conservation organisation says that’s because the Tseung Kwan O landfills, the birds’ main source of food, stopped collecting food waste last year.
Speaking to Young Post, Eco-Education & Resources Centre (ERC) science manager Dr Cheung Ma-shan said almost 600 temperate black kites come from Siberia to Hong Kong in winter for food, shelter and warmer weather, and one-third of these kites go to the Tseung Kwan O landfills for food. However, landfills have rejected food waste since January 6 last year, and the population of the kites in Tseung Kwan O has fallen by around 40 in the past few months. Cheung expects this to continue, until 80 to 85 per cent of the kites remain.
“The black kites mostly find shelter in Magazine Gap on Hong Kong Island, Stonecutters’ Island and parts of Sai Kung,” said Cheung. “They often eat carrion and tiny live prey, so the landfills provide them with a good source of food. The declining population of these birds in the city is mainly due to a lack of food in the landfill sites. They will probably move to other countries for food.”
Cheung added there were about 500 resident black kites in the city, and that number will probably remain unchanged in the next few years.
Peter Chan, a member of the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society’s kite research group, agreed that the number of these resident black kites would remain the same. “Other than the food in the landfill sites, they can eat small prey or fish around the piers and typhoon shelters,” he said.
The ERC will do a 3-year population census of the black kites in the city. The group wants to understand the impact of human activities on these raptors’ habitat.