Wedge Tailed Eagles

Picture Challenge #16 showed the nest of a wedge tailed eagle or “wedgie”, scientific name aquila audax (“audacious eagle”), one of the world’s largest birds of prey. Wedgies are found throughout Australia and in southern New Guinea, mostly in open country. Their wedge-shaped tail and feathered legs give them a very distinctive appearance. Their wingspan can be up to 2.3 metres (7½ feet). In the Outback, they are often seen feeding on road kill.

Their nest is a large, roughly-built structure of sticks and leaves, often added to over several years by the same pair. The classic eagles’ nest – or “eyrie” – is built high up in a tall tree or on a cliff, which is handy for getting out to do a spot of hunting and gathering. But tall trees and cliffs are often rather scarce in the Outback, so one may have to settle for a small spindly tree. One consequence of this is that an eagles’ nest can become so large and heavy that it breaks the supporting limbs, or even brings down the tree!
The picture of the nest shows a mess of sticks and twigs on the ground under the nest. Reader Kev suggested it could be “excess building material”, and reader Anne thought maybe it was broken branches from such a big bird landing in the tree. However, it has apparently been observed that when they bring a stick or twig to the nest but then accidentally drop it, they make no effort to recover it (see http://www.birdsinbackyards.net/species/Aquila-audax ). I have developed a theory about this: the eagle arrives at its ten-feet-off-the-ground nest with stick, and thinks (with its tiny eagle brain) “Here I am back at the eyrie, which — as everyone knows – we eagles build very high off the ground, and – oops – I dropped the stick. Oh well, no point in flying all the way down to get it. I’ll get another one next time I’m out. And how are you chicks getting on?”
Some other facts about wedgies:
• Nests can be up to two metres wide.
• Wedgies are territorial, and have been known to attack model planes, hang gliders, etc which intruded into “their” air space.
• The wedge tailed eagle is now a protected species, but up until the 1960s, some Australian states paid a bounty on wedgies, due to their alleged tendency to kill lambs and even sheep. Research has shown that this is not a major problem.
• Wedgies have been observed flying at altitudes of up to 1800 metres!
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About dazzlerplus

Writing about the things that interest me helps me to discover what I think. One of my loves is the Australian Outback, and I travel out there often, and when possible take friends with me.
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