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6

Wedge-tailed Eagle

(Aquila audax)
Alternative name: "Eaglehawk*" (misnomer)
Aboriginal names: "bilyara", "mullian", "nompie", "woorawa", "wulde", "maliyan" [gamilaraay, yuwaalaraay], "walja", "wallardoo", "cooradilla", "curawura" ("kurrawurra"), "kilpara", "koothalla", "neeyangarra", "otella", "walletch", "walowoona"

Size: 90 cm - 1.1 m; wing span 1.8-2.5 m
Weight: 3-5.75 kg (female); 2-4 kg (male)
SUBSECTIONS:     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Taxonomy, classification

See Wedge-tailed Eagle at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Wedge-tailed Eagles are quite common in the Narrabri region, in north-western NSW. We see them, mostly in pairs, quite regularly, either perched in treetops or sitting on their prey on the ground. Often also seen soaring at great heights.

Click here for sighting information

Photos

Race "audax"

Not the photos you want? Or are you after even better quality? Have a look here .

Pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles perched in the top of a dead tree (photo courtesy of R. Druce)
[Maules Creek, NSW, March 2013]

Wedge-tailed Eagle on a perch
[Deriah Aboriginal Area, NSW, February 2008]

Wedge-tailed Eagle taking off from its perch
[Eulah Creek, NSW, January 2013]

In some cases white spots at the base of a Wedge-tailed Eagle's primaries can make it appear similar to a Black-breasted Buzzard
[Eulah Creek, NSW, January 2013]

In some cases white spots at the base of a Wedge-tailed Eagle's primaries can make it appear similar to a Black-breasted Buzzard
[Eulah Creek, NSW, January 2013]

Wedge-tailed Eagle after it got annoyed with the photographer
[Near Narrabri, NSW, 2005]

Soaring Wedge-tailed Eagle displaying its underwing pattern
[Eulah Creek, NSW, June 2010]

View from above, showing the upperwing pattern of a Wedge-tailed Eagle
[Near Tamworth, NSW, March 2012]

Two Wedge-tailed Eagles gliding into a valley
[Springbrook NP, Gold Coast, QLD, May 2014]

Wedge-tailed Eagle in flight (click on image to see what it had to put up with) - the little speck is a White-breasted Woodswallow; note that these photos were taken with 15x magnification (f=500 mm)!)
[Deriah Aboriginal Area, NSW, January 2008]

Here a comparison of the wing shape when gliding (left) and soaring (right)

There are many who don't want "Wedgies" around - first an Australian Magpie...
[Near Bingara, NSW, September 2008]

...then an Australian Raven
[Near Bingara, NSW, September 2008]

Sometimes whole packs of Australian Ravens are hot on the heels of a Wedge-tailed Eagle

Near-frontal view of an immature Wedge-tailed Eagle
[Near Quambone, NSW, April 2011]

Close-up lateral view of an immature Wedge-tailed Eagle (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)
[Eulah Creek, NSW, April 2013]

Lateral view of an immature Wedge-tailed Eagle

Close-up view of an immature Wedge-tailed Eagle with its inner eyelids closed
[Near Louth, NSW, March 2008]

The same immature Wedge-tailed Eagle as above, now with its eyes open
[Near Louth, NSW, March 2008]

Two immature Wedge-tailed Eagle in a dead tree
[Eulah Creek, NSW, December 2011]

Near-dorsal view of an immature Wedge-tailed Eagle perched in a dead tree (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)
[Terry Hie Hie, NSW, March 2014]

Dorsal view of an immature Wedge-tailed Eagle spreading its wings - this is the bird whose call was recorded
[Mt. Kaputar NP, NSW, April 2014]

Close-up view of a first-year Wedge-tailed Eagle from underneath

Immature Wedge-tailed Eagle, probably the same bird as above, soaring
[Goran Lake, NSW, June 2011]

Frontal portrait of a Wedge-tailed Eagle in captivity (photo courtesy of J. Thurmer)

Lateral portrait of a Wedge-tailed Eagle in captivity (photo courtesy of J. Thurmer)

"High-flyers"

Below a rough estimate of the altitude at which a Wedge-tailed Eagle was observed: Assuming that the airplane was flying at 10000 m altitude (33000 ft), based on its length of 70.6 m and the eagle's length of ca. 1 m, one can estimate from the relative apparent sizes that the eagle was seen at an altitude of roughly 800 m. The uncertainty in the length of the bird and the altitude of the airplane is about ±10%, making the total uncertainty of the bird's altitude about ±20%.

These two photos give an estimate of how high a "Wedgy" can fly; Wedge-tailed Eagle at 15x magnification (left) and, on the same scale, a Boeing 747-400 at cruising altitude (right)

Breeding information

Breeding season: Jun - Aug Eggs: 1 - 3 Incubation period: 45 days Fledging age: ca. 70 days

The breeding season depends significantly on geographical latitude. In the tropical north Wedge-tailed Eagles breed Jan - Feb. Although there can be up to 3 eggs, normally only one, sometimes two chicks survive.

Nest

"bungobittah", "malunna" = Nest [Aboriginal]

Type: Basket Material: Sticks, lined with fresh leaves Height above ground: 5 - 20 m

The nest will start relatively small and grow in size with time, up to a total weight of about one tonne. Therefore, Wedge-tailed Eagles choose the strongest forks available in the tallest suitable tree they can find.

Additional information

A. Morris reports that some bird species, most notably Diamond Firetails, Zebra Finches and Red-browed Finches, like to take advantage of the protection offered by nesting under a Wedge-tailed Eagle nest. There is now a separate page about various bird species nesting under the umbrella of a stronger, protective species.

Wedge-tailed Eagle's nest in the only tree worth its name in several square kilometres
[Flinders Ranges NP, SA, March 2008]

Closer view of a different Wedge-tailed Eagle's nest in the same part of the Flinders Ranges, about 10 km from the one shown above
[Flinders Ranges NP, SA, March 2008]

Eggs

"boyanga", "booyanga", "derinya", "dirandil", "koomura", "ngampu", "nooluk", "pateena" = Egg; "dirundirri" = eggs [Aboriginal]; "gawu" = eggs [gamilaraay]

Size: 75 x 58 mm Colour: Light-brown, heavily speckled with darker brown speckles Shape: Tapered oval

Behaviour

Social behaviour: Territorial Mobility: Sedentary Elementary unit: Pair

Food, Diet

Adults: Mammals, carrion Dependents: As adults Water intake: None

All raptors are carnivores. Wedge-tailed Eagles prey on animals as large as (young) kangaroos. They also scavenge on carrion, e.g. roadkill. The photo below indicates that immature birds start with smaller prey. They have been seen by us competing with adult Whistling Kites.

During the first few weeks, raptors feed their chicks with pieces of meat. Later on in their development, the chicks learn to tear apart their parents' prey.

Australia does not have any vultures. The Wedge-tailed Eagle fills that void in the habitat. Together with ants and Whistling Kites they dispose of dead bodies.

Early morning clean-up: Two of a total of five Wedge-tailed Eagles seen near roadkill (in this case a young kangaroo); in the absence of vultures on the Australian continent, Wedge-tailed Eagles fill that ecological niche
[Sturt NP, NSW, September 2012]

Lateral view of an immature Wedge-tailed Eagle claiming its meal
[Sturt NP, NSW, September 2012]

Lateral view of an immature Wedge-tailed Eagle, here displaying its underwing plumage
[Sturt NP, NSW, September 2012]

Dorsal view of an immature Wedge-tailed Eagle
[Sturt NP, NSW, September 2012]

Wedge-tailed Eagle carrying away its prey
[Near Gunnedah, NSW, August 2012]

Call/s

For this species we have recorded the following call/s. The interpretation of their meaning is our own; comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.

The bird whose call is linked below may have been mobbed by Pied Currawongs.

wedgy_20140402_2.mp3 audax (NW NSW) ? (Immature, in flight) MD

These pages are largely based on our own observations. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.