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Wonderful wedgies

March 12, 2013

IMG_1308Wedge-tailed Eagles (Aquila audax) are a familiar sight around Trent and Vikki’s Flowerdale property at the base of the Three Sisters hills.  Recently some close encounters have provided Trent with some good photographic opportunities, but have been to the detriment of their small flock of hens !

The eagle shown at left is an immature bird with its golden brown nape. The birds become darker with age, and those over about five years old appear almost black, with just some russet colouring on the nape and across the wings.

Trent has discovered two nests in the neighbouring patch of forest on ‘Three Sisters’, which is protected under a Trust for Nature covenant. This area was extensively burnt in the Black Saturday fires, but is now densely vegetated with young regrowth. Wedgies often have several nests in their territory, and choose one for breeding each season. The extraordinary nest in the right-hand image was photographed on ‘Three Sisters’ in 2007. At about 3m deep it must have been built up over many years. Unfortunately it was later destroyed in a wind-storm. Click on the images for a better look.

Trent’s keen interest in wildlife and photography led him to set up remote motion-sensor cameras around the carcass of a roadkill Sambar. The resulting photos in the slide-show below include close-ups of a young eagle feeding on the carcass.  Carrion can form a significant part of the diet of wedge-tailed eagles. In the past they were erroneously thought to be responsible for the deaths of large numbers of sheep and lambs, and bounties were paid for their destruction. The statistics are shocking: in one year in Queensland 10,000 bounties were paid, and betwen 1927 and 1968 in Western Australia a further 150,000 were paid (source: Reader’s Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds). Fortunately (but perhaps not for Trent’s chooks!) the magnificent Wedge-tailed Eagle is now protected in all states.

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Wedgies are mostly silent, but at times they have a surprisingly high-pitched call for such a large bird. Click on the arrowhead on the sound bar below to hear a sample of the call.

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