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Wedge-Tailed Eagle Fact File

Aquila audax

Credit: Copyright. The Animal Facts.

Weight

2-5.3kg

(4.5-11.5lbs)

Length

1-1.2m

(39-47.2in)

Lifespan

Wild 25 years

Captive 40 years

Diet

Carnivore

Small Mammals

Conservation Status

IUCN

Least Concern

Australia's Largest Bird of Prey!

The wedge-tailed eagle is Australia's largest bird of prey. These animals have a wingspan of up to 3.1m (10.3ft) across. Their large wings allow them to soar with ease through the skies.

They are capable hunters taking down large prey items such as wallabies or kangaroos though most of their diet is smaller mammals.

Upon their first meeting the pair will undertake a mating display in the air during which they link talons or perform short dives together.

These animals are threatened by vehicle strikes which commonly occur when the species is scavenging roadkill and poisoning or shooting due a belief that they take livestock.

Read on to learn more about these brilliant birds.

Appearance

What does the Wedge-Tailed Eagle look like?

The feathers of a wedge-tailed eagle are coloured a blackish-brown colour. On the underside of the wings, the shoulders and the hind-neck are reddish brown patches. The feathers of juveniles are a lighter brown and these darken as they age.

The cere at the top of the bill is creamy white as are the feet. Their feathers run down to the base of the toes. The remainder of the bill is horn with a black, downward curving tip.

A patch of bare skin is present between the eye and the beak which is colored pink.

They are the only eagle with a wedge shaped tail which is where their name comes from.

Wedge-tailed eagles are Australia’s largest birds of prey. Their body measures 1-1.2m (39-47.2in) in length. They have the largest verified wingspan of any eagle at 3.1m (10ft 3in) across. On average a male will weigh 2-4kg (4.5-9lb) while the larger female averages 3.1-5.3kg (7-11.5lb).

Adaptations

How does the Wedge-Tailed Eagle survive in its habitat?


This species is equipped with sharp claws which help them to grab on to large prey items when they are actively hunting. These allow them to lift up to 5kg of prey and carry it through the air.

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Diet

What does the Wedge-Tailed Eagle eat?

Wedge tailed eagles are carnivores. Most of their diet is now European rabbits which are an introduced species. In the past their focus would have been wombats, bandicoots, possums and bilbies but these animals are now rare. They also hunt lizards, birds and if in a group they have been known to take down a wallaby or kangaroo. Other introduced species in their diet include foxes, sick or weak lambs and goats, dogs and cats.

These animals also scavenge for carrion. They will often steal food from ravens and up to 12 birds may be seen gathered around a large carcass.

They hunt mostly from the air looking for prey on the ground and then swooping down to attack it. In some cases they have been documented pulling possums from tree hollows and taking chicks from nests.

Learn more about the Wedge-Tailed Eagle in this video from CWSlive on YouTube

Range

Where do you find the Wedge-Tailed Eagle?

Australia and Papua New Guinea are the native homes of the Wedge-tailed eagle. It can be found across most of mainland Australia as well as Tasmania and a number of offshore islands including Flinders, Maria and Kangaroo.

Habitat

Where can the Wedge-Tailed Eagle survive?

Here they can be found in lightly timbered woodlands, Trans fly savannas, dense forest, mountainous regions and grasslands.

Wedge-Tailed Eagle (Aquila audax)

Credit: Copyright. The Animal Facts.

Reproduction

How does the Wedge-Tailed Eagle produce its young?

Breeding occurs from June to August. Wedge-tailed eagles will form monogamous pairs which will never separate. It is also uncommon for one partner to seek a new mate when the other dies.

When pairs first meet they will court one another by performing a series of short dives, touching talons and making a whistle as they pull up from their dives. A pair will defend their territory during the breeding season, perch close together and preen each other.

A nest is typically formed in a tree but where they cannot find a suitable tree they use a cliff edge or even make it on the ground. It is made from sticks and lined with green leaves and twigs. The nest can measure 2.5m (8.2ft) across and 4m (13ft) deep.

This nest is used for many years in a row with some having been used for 50 consecutive years. Some pairs maintain up to 10 nests and rotate their nest each year.

The female deposits one to three eggs into this nest. They are laid over a period of 2 to 4 days. These eggs are incubated by both parents for 42-45 days.

The eggs do not hatch at the same time and in years where there is little food the first chick who is already strong by the time the second hatches may kill its nest mate. Chicks are covered in downy white feathers.

For the first 30 days the male will do all the hunting while the female keeps the chicks warm. After this she will join him to go hunting.

75 to 95 days after hatching the chicks will be ready to fledge. They are dependent on their parents for food for another 3 to 6 months though. While they are immature these animals are more of a golden brown colour.

Sexual maturity is reached at 3 years old but often it is not until six years old when they have adult plumage that they will first mate.

Behavior

What does the Wedge-Tailed Eagle do during its day?

The wedge-tailed eagle is a solitary animal until they pair up with a mate.

Most of their day is spent high in the air circling their territory looking for food or reinforcing their ownership of that territory. When not flying they will perch in a tree.

They have a weak call which is a double syllable note. They use different calls for greeting, alarm, territoriality and while mating.

Wedge-Tailed Eagle (Aquila audax)

Credit: Copyright. The Animal Facts.

Predators and Threats

What stops the Wedge-Tailed Eagle from surviving and thriving?

No predator is capable of taking down an adult wedge-tailed eagle. Their nest may be raided by species such as goannas. These can take eggs, hatchlings and nestlings.

In some areas this species is targeted through shooting or trapping and poisoning. This is typically retribution due to a belief that they kill livestock. Poisoning can also be secondary through their food such as rabbits.

This species is often a victim of roadkill. They will wait at roadsides for prey species to be hit by passing vehicles and they will then scavenge from the carcass which can lead to them also being hit by a car.

They may also be victims of collision with powerlines.

These eagles are offered protection under law in all states of Australia. In Tasmania these birds are considered endangered and a recovery plan is in place to try and ensure their survival.

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Quick facts

Wedge tailed eagles are the faunal emblem of Northern Territory and New South Wales. It is also the mascot of the Australian rules football team, The West Coast Eagles.

These birds have been known to attack hang-gliders and paragliders that enter their territory.

Wedge-tailed eagles are also referred to as eaglehawks.

Their scientific name translates as "bold eagle" in Latin.

Wedge-Tailed Eagle (Aquila audax)

Credit: Copyright. The Animal Facts.

References

2022. Bird: The Definitive Visual Guide. London: Dorling Kindersley Ltd.

BirdLife International 2016. Aquila audax. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22696064A93542539. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22696064A93542539.en. Downloaded on 22 April 2020.

Bush Heritage Australia. 2022. Wedge-tailed Eagles – Bush Heritage Australia. [online] Available at: <https://www.bushheritage.org.au/species/wedge-tailed-eagles> [Accessed 22 April 2022].

Western Australian Museum. 2022. Wedge-tailed Eagle | Western Australian Museum. [online] Available at: <https://museum.wa.gov.au/explore/galleries/wedge-tailed-eagle> [Accessed 22 April 2022].

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