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emydura

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Wedge-tailed Eagles - Aquila audax

The iconic Wedge-tailed Eagle is the largest bird of prey in Australia and the fourth largest eagle in the world. It is commonly found in Canberra and can often be seen soaring high in the thermals. It used to be heavily persecuted as farmers believed it would kill lambs, although it has been shown they mostly prey on dead or dying lambs. They are big carrion eaters and play a similar role as vultures in Australia. Prior to 1970, the government paid a bounty for the dead carcasses or eggs of Wedge-tailed eagles . As a result, hundreds of thousands of eagles were killed across Australia. Despite now being fully protected, Wedge-tailed Eagles are still regularly illegally killed. A Victorian father was jailed recently for poisoning more than 400 Wedge-tailed Eagles (Farm worker jailed for 14 days and fined for poisoning 406 wedge-tailed eaglesV). Despite all this, Wedge-tailed Eagles have bounced back well since protection and are considered the world's most abundant eagle. In fact, they are probably more common now than they have ever been and can be found in high numbers wherever the introduced rabbit is located.

There is a pair that have a nest not far from my house. Here are some photos of both the parents and the eaglet they raised this year.


Here are the parents perched in a tree not far from the nest. The larger female is on the bottom right. The feathers after each annual moult are a darker shade. These birds are basically black so they are quite old in age now.




A closeup of the female.




You can see why they are called Wedge-tailed Eagles. That wedge tail makes them very easy to distinguish from other birds of prey in flight.




Here is the eaglet after a couple of weeks. The eggs take about 45 days to hatch and the eaglet about 75 days to fledge. The eaglet stays with the parents for another 6 months before leaving the territory. The parents then have a month or two break before doing it all again. Wedge-tailed Eagles generally lay two eggs, although the second egg is often a plan B option in case there is a problem with the first egg. In some cases the stronger eaglet will kill the weaker one. But if there is plenty of food, then both chicks can fledge. I don't know what happened in this case.





The eaglet here is a little older. At this age the eaglet would always crouch down when I showed up making it hard to take good photos. The parents are not aggressive when you approach the nest. In fact, they fly off and observe you from a distance. Therefore, I would not stay too long. You can see a rabbit skin near the eaglets tail.




Lucky to get this photo of the eaglet standing up.




Here is one of the parents feeding a rabbit to the eaglet. I saw the parent fly over to the nest with the rabbit in its claws. Very exciting as that was the only time this occurred while I was watching.




Getting close to fledging.



Taken a week ago. Getting those wings ready to fly.





Here is a photo of the nest by the river. Wedge-tailed Eagles build a large stick nest often high up in a prominent tree. This nest is in a breath-taking location with a view right up and down the river.




I turned up today and there was no eaglet in the nest. As I approached the nest, the eaglet then flew from a nearby tree back to the nest. So I got to watch it fly. It must have only fledged in the last day or so. Hopefully over the next few months I will get to see all three of these eagles soaring in the sky together as I drive to work.




 
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monocotman

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Thanks, that is a wonderful story with some super photos.
In recent years there has been a successful reintroduction of a similar raptor, the sea eagle into the UK. They are now breeding in Scotland and there are now several young birds being released each year in the south of the UK, on the Isle of Wight.
The best place to see them at the moment is the island of Mull and they have had a big effect on the local economy with lots of people coming to see them.
Davis
 

kitfox

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I enjoyed that immensely. And I appreciate the effort you went through to tell this story. What equipment did you use?
 

emydura

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Thanks, that is a wonderful story with some super photos.
In recent years there has been a successful reintroduction of a similar raptor, the sea eagle into the UK. They are now breeding in Scotland and there are now several young birds being released each year in the south of the UK, on the Isle of Wight.
The best place to see them at the moment is the island of Mull and they have had a big effect on the local economy with lots of people coming to see them.
Davis
Thanks David. I have been reading with great interest all the 'rewilding' that is going on in Great Britain at the moment. It is very exciting to see all these species that were wiped out hundreds of years ago being returned. The Sea Eagle as you say and the Golden Eagle and Red Kite. Even bears maybe and wolves.

It disappoints me though when I read about Grouse hunters shooting Golden Eagles as they are more concerned about their own selfish interests.
 

monocotman

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The worst problems are on the grouse moors with hen harriers. Very few survive. They eat grouse chicks.
The latest proposal are pelicans from somewhere on the Mediterranean. Apparently they were wiped out by the Romans!
 

abax

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Great photographs and a rather timely object lesson for all of us. The birds are
magnificent. Thank you so much.
 

eds

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Unfortunately a lot of the rewinding efforts spoken about in the UK are headline grabbers rather than what really needs to be done, which is protecting habitats. Great stuff, exciting to see but not what really needs to happen first. It makes us feel like we're doing good things when actually wildlife numbers here are in free fall.

As an example, in the building of a new high speed rail line, the government has ploughed through a number of ancient woodlands that were supposed to be protected from any and all development. They have even tried transplanting the soil and some trees from them to new sites which again, is to catch a headline saying they're preserving them. There are lots more examples.

Hopefully the sea eagles will be as successful as the red kite reintroduction where they have spread as far as my home in Nottinghamshire from their enclave in South Wales. And hopefully enough people will let the beavers spreading in parts of the UK be when they start flooding farmers' fields and changing boundaries through their dam building!
 

monocotman

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Of course, Ed’s right. The natural environment is under constant attack, especially in an overcrowded island like the UK.
David, there is probably illegal killing of hen harriers across the UK as they take grouse chicks from the grouse moors and leave fewer birds to be shot at by the wealthy who pay big bucks for this pastime.
 

Guldal

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Thank you for the great narrative and the absolutely gorgeous photos! Such an amount of patience and dedication must have gone into making this wonderful photo series possible! Much appreciated, David!
Cheers from Copenhagen, Jens
 
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BrucherT

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Wedge-tailed Eagles - Aquila audax

The iconic Wedge-tailed Eagle is the largest bird of prey in Australia and the fourth largest eagle in the world. It is commonly found in Canberra and can often be seen soaring high in the thermals. It used to be heavily persecuted as farmers believed it would kill lambs, although it has been shown they mostly prey on dead or dying lambs. They are big carrion eaters and play a similar role as vultures in Australia. Prior to 1970, the government paid a bounty for the dead carcasses or eggs of Wedge-tailed eagles . As a result, hundreds of thousands of eagles were killed across Australia. Despite now being fully protected, Wedge-tailed Eagles are still regularly illegally killed. A Victorian father was jailed recently for poisoning more than 400 Wedge-tailed Eagles (Farm worker jailed for 14 days and fined for poisoning 406 wedge-tailed eaglesV). Despite all this, Wedge-tailed Eagles have bounced back well since protection and are considered the world's most abundant eagle. In fact, they are probably more common now than they have ever been and can be found in high numbers wherever the introduced rabbit is located.

There is a pair that have a nest not far from my house. Here are some photos of both the parents and the eaglet they raised this year.


Here are the parents perched in a tree not far from the nest. The larger female is on the bottom right. The feathers after each annual moult are a darker shade. These birds are basically black so they are quite old in age now.




A closeup of the female.




You can see why they are called Wedge-tailed Eagles. That wedge tail makes them very easy to distinguish from other birds of prey in flight.




Here is the eaglet after a couple of weeks. The eggs take about 45 days to hatch and the eaglet about 75 days to fledge. The eaglet stays with the parents for another 6 months before leaving the territory. The parents then have a month or two break before doing it all again. Wedge-tailed Eagles generally lay two eggs, although the second egg is often a plan B option in case there is a problem with the first egg. In some cases the stronger eaglet will kill the weaker one. But if there is plenty of food, then both chicks can fledge. I don't know what happened in this case.





The eaglet here is a little older. At this age the eaglet would always crouch down when I showed up making it hard to take good photos. The parents are not aggressive when you approach the nest. In fact, they fly off and observe you from a distance. Therefore, I would not stay too long. You can see a rabbit skin near the eaglets tail.




Lucky to get this photo of the eaglet standing up.




Here is one of the parents feeding a rabbit to the eaglet. I saw the parent fly over to the nest with the rabbit in its claws. Very exciting as that was the only time this occurred while I was watching.


Getting close to fledging.

Taken a week ago. Getting those wings ready to fly.

Here is a photo of the nest by the river. Wedge-tailed Eagles build a large stick nest often high up in a prominent tree. This nest is in a breath-taking location with a view right up and down the river.

I turned up today and there was no eaglet in the nest. As I approached the nest, the eaglet then flew from a nearby tree back to the nest. So I got to watch it fly. It must have only fledged in the last day or so. Hopefully over the next few months I will get to see all three of these eagles soaring in the sky together as I drive to work.
What a treat! Thank you!!
 

emydura

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Unfortunately a lot of the rewinding efforts spoken about in the UK are headline grabbers rather than what really needs to be done, which is protecting habitats. Great stuff, exciting to see but not what really needs to happen first. It makes us feel like we're doing good things when actually wildlife numbers here are in free fall.

As an example, in the building of a new high speed rail line, the government has ploughed through a number of ancient woodlands that were supposed to be protected from any and all development. They have even tried transplanting the soil and some trees from them to new sites which again, is to catch a headline saying they're preserving them. There are lots more examples.

Hopefully the sea eagles will be as successful as the red kite reintroduction where they have spread as far as my home in Nottinghamshire from their enclave in South Wales. And hopefully enough people will let the beavers spreading in parts of the UK be when they start flooding farmers' fields and changing boundaries through their dam building!
Thanks Ed. That is one of the criticisms of the talk about introducing the Dalmatian Pelican. Until you restore large tracks of healthy wetlands, then there is not much point in bringing the pelicans back. Hopefully the talk about bringing these species back will incentivise governments to start restoring habitat which will have much wider benefits.

The Red Kite re-introduction is an incredible achievement. From 13 birds to 2000 pairs in 30 years is quite remarkable.
 
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monocotman

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The Red kite story is quite amazing. When I was a student doing an MSc in Aberystwyth, mid wales, in the 80’s there were a few left in the hills above ten town but that was about it.
Now you see them everywhere and lots of people encourage them by feeding.
You can go to a farm in mid wales (gigrin) where they receive abattoir leftovers. Between 200 and 600 kites feed there every day. It’s quite a sight.
 

eds

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The first ones were seen over Nottingham a year and a bit ago and I saw my first from my office at work last year. Since then we've seen them over the garden at home a couple of times too. Hopefully in another year or two they might be breeding here - fingers crossed at some point we might have a pair breeding at the bottom of the garden along with the buzzards and sparrowhawks that nest in the trees there.
 
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