Wedge-tailed eagles – <em>our largest bird of prey</em>

No. 33 Wedge-tailed eagles – our largest bird of prey

Tasmania’s majestic wedge-tailed eagle (Aquila audax fleayi) is a sub-species of wedge-tailed eagle of mainland Australia. It is Tasmania’s largest bird of prey and recognisable in flight by its characteristic wedge-shaped tail and the ‘fingering’ of the outer primary wing feathers. The eagles catch and kill their prey using their long and powerful talons. It is a magnificent sight to see one soaring high in the sky as it hunts its prey of rabbits, hares, wallabies, possums, lizards and carrion. more...

Like many top-order predators, the wedge-tailed eagle has faced persecution in the past, and it is now listed as an endangered species. In the past, Tasmanian farmers – blaming the birds for stock losses, especially of young lambs –paid to have the eagles shot. Today, however, the major threat to the species is habitat fragmentation and depletion, often due to human development. This loss of habitat and persecution, combined with the birds’ tendency to collide with power lines and wind turbines, has reduced wedge-tailed eagle numbers in Tasmania to about 130 breeding pairs.

Established pairs of birds tend to remain in one area and, if undisturbed, will use the same nest for many years. Wedge-tailed eagles build huge nests made of sticks high up in tall trees; some nests can be more than 50 years old. An adult pair needs a large territory that is defended strongly near nest sites. They are very shy nesters, and will desert their nests if disturbed.

The specimens on display at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery are all from collisions with power lines.

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  • Object maker: not applicable
  • Object date: 2012
  • Object size: 100 to 110 cm body; up to 200 wingspan
  • Object location: Woolnorth
  • Object display location: Off Display
  • Object source: Collected by DPIPWE
  • Accession number: B