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  • Writer's pictureIan

Wedge-tailed eagle

Updated: Feb 13, 2022

We had a visit from a Wedge-tailed eagle. It came unannounced bearing down on a chook as it, along with every other chook, purple swamp hens and plumed whistling ducks, ran for their lives for the cover of the verandah or the nearest bush. The eagle's fully extended wings take up the whole vision for a moment.

The chook only made it to safety because we startled the attacker as it was gaining on the fleeing chook, tallons ready.

Every other bird, wild or domestic, was under some shelter. The giant bird wheeled off and headed towards the chook pen eventually landing in a tree nearby. The only birds seen now are all the seeming brave honey eaters, spangled drongos and a number of other birds that swirled around the eagle as it perched high up in a tree, ignoring the smaller birds.

The purple swamp hens and plumed whistling ducks stayed on our verandah, none daring to come out for some time until the eagle finally left.

Wedge-tailed eagles (Aquila audax), sometimes called eaglehawks, are big birds. They are Australia's largest bird of prey with a wingspan of up to 2.3m, although this one wasn't that big, perhaps 1.8m. That is a length around the height of a doorway. They weigh around 4kg although the females are larger than the males.

We think this might be a young one. Young wedge-tailed eagles are lighter in colour and darken as they get older.

Apart from chooks and other large birds, wedge-tailed eagles feed on mammals, including rabbits and wallabies, and even lizards.

As so dramatically demonstrated in front of us they swoop down on their prey on the ground and only occasionally take prey in the air. They have even been known to attack hang gliders which would be a frightening thing for the hang glider!

They will also feed on carrion. We regularly see them feeding on road kill beside the road.

They range throughout Australia and are not endangered on the mainland.

Although we have the threat of our chooks being taken by one of these birds, it is such a privilege to see one so close and in full flight.

What a magnificent animal.

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