With the issue of this new souvenir sheet designed by Jean-Jacques Mahuteau, OPT-NC pays tribute to four of New Caledonia’s hawk species: the Eastern Osprey (Pandion cristatus), the Swamp Harrier (Circus approximans), the White-bellied Goshawk (Accipiter haplochrous) and the Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus).
Eastern ospreys, commonly found around the North and South lagoons and large inland lakes, reach 50–55 cm in length and have a 120–150 cm wingspan. The upperparts are a deep, glossy brown, the head and neck are white with a dark mask across the eyes, reaching to the sides of the neck. The underparts are pure white. Nesting in trees or rocky outcrops on the islets, eastern ospreys feed on snakes, crabs and fish caught on the surface.
Swamp harriers, similar in size to eastern ospreys, have largely dark brown plumage, becoming lighter with age, with a distinct white rump and an owl-like face mask. Swamp harriers have a slow sailing flight on up-swept wings and can be seen flying low over areas of open country in New Caledonia, hunting for prey (insects, lizards, rats...).
The White-bellied Goshawk is endemic to New Caledonia, grows to a length of around thirty centimetres and has red eyes and white underparts, while the upperparts, head and breast are slate grey in colour. Relatively common on the Main Island, the species prefers environments with plenty of tree cover (rainforests, woody scrubland...) and catches birds and large insects in mid-flight.
Whistling kites have fairly short hooked black beaks and creamy white plumage speckled with brown, grey and tawny-red. They are the same size as eastern ospreys and swamp harriers. A species of open or lightly wooded areas, whistling kites are commonly found throughout the Main Island; they feed on carrion and hunt reptiles, fish and insects.
These three last species are protected and hunting or capturing them is strictly prohibited.