Aquila audax fleayi

The Wedge-tailed eagle is a massive bird, weighing up to 5kg and having a wingspan of 2.2meters (7 feet) It has a long wedge shaped tail which gives it its name, and feathered legs.

The bird has dark brown feathers which darken as it matures until it is almost black in adulthood.

Wedge-tailed Eagles nest in the largest eucalypts and sheltered from the wind. A breeding pair require more than 10 hectares of surrounding forest to keep themselves and their chicks fed.

The Wedge tailed eagle is a hunter and exists mainly on small animals like rabbits, as well as the young of creatures such as dingos and kangaroos. Wedge-tailed Eagles also depend heavily on carrion for food.

The Wedge-tailed Eagle is listed as "vulnerable" by the Tasmanian Threatened Species Protection Act 1995, and has recently been included in the Federal list as critically threatened. This is partially because the birds habitat has been vastly lessened by urbanisation, and the fact that the birds breed slowly, but the fact that farmers shoot many eagles because they think they kill lambs, rather than merely scavenge on dead lambs which many scientists believe is all they do with them.

With a wingspan of up to 2.5 metres, the wedge tailed eagle, or wedgie, is the largest bird of prey in Australia. It soars for up to 90 minutes at a time, reaching altitudes that exceed 2 kilometres. While they are found all over Australia, they are more common in open woodland areas with good grassy ground cover.

Wedge tailed eagles usually spend the hours around sunrise and sunset viewing their territory from the treetops. The hunt in the morning, and for the rest of the day they either sit on exposed perches or circle in the air and, although they spend little time maintaining their territory, they will advertise their presence by flying at high altitudes and gliding along the boundaries of their range.

In earlier times, the wedge tailed eagle was considered to be a pest because of its reputation as a killer of lambs and sheep. People were encouraged to kill them, and it has been estimated that at one stage 30,000 wedge tailed eagles were destroyed in a year. The wedge tailed eagle is now protected by the National Parks and Wildlife Act, and although it is now illegal to kill, trap or poison them, a lot of farmers still shoot them for sport.

Adult wedge tailed eagles pair off for life. During the breeding season they preen each other, and they will attack unfamiliar wedge tailed eagles who might invade their territory. The eagles’ nest consists of a large platform of sticks in the fork of a tree. Both sexes repair the nest, and the male lines it daily with fresh leaves. He will also sit on the eggs to incubate them, relieving the female from this task. During the incubation period, and after the chicks have hatched, the male does all the hunting. His catch is shredded by the female and fed to the young. They're really kind of adorable. Certainly one of my favourite birds.

In a good season two chicks may be reared, but usually only the fittest survives while the younger chick starves to death. Sometimes the older and larger chick may kill its sibling. In drought-affected areas, wedge-tailed eagles may not breed at all for several years.

When hunting, the wedge tailed eagle bears down on its prey in a long, slanting swoop. They have been known to dive up to half a kilometre from a target before flying a few metres above the ground, surprising their prey. Nearly all prey is caught on open ground, with the successful eagle usually feeding on the spot. Carrion is also a favourite meal, and as many as 30 to 40 wedge-tailed eagles can be found feeding on one carcass. They are often attracted to the carcasses of kangaroos lying beside roads and, as a consequence, some wedge tailed eagles are killed by speeding vehicles.

Between 80 and 90 per cent of a wedge tailed eagle’s diet is made up of ground dwelling animals, including both mammals and reptiles. Rabbits, wallabies and small kangaroos form the main part of their diet, although they will also eat snakes, lizards, large birds, possums, foxes and feral cats.

Wedge tailed eagles will eat sheep, but they usually only attack weak, dying or dead animals. Research by the CSIRO has shown that sheep account for less than 9 per cent of the wedge tailed eagle’s diet, which has little effect on the domestic sheep industry. Most of the sheep meat in the eagle’s diet is from carcasses, dying sheep, or road fatalities on unfenced inland roads.

Source: moslty the NSW Parks and Wildlife Service

Wedge Tailed Eagle


The wedge tailed eagle is one of the largest birds of prey in the world with a wing span of 2.3 meters, it has a black with tawny plumage with cream feathers in places, including a prominent diagonal band across the inner wing. An adult female can weigh up to 4.2 kilos, it’s male counterpart being slightly smaller at an average of 3.2 kilos. Its distinctive wedge tail that is about 40cm in length, other distinctive features are it’s powerful claws and legs for hunting, can recognize the eagle. As a fledgling the eagle is a sandy brown, though after it’s infancy period of 70 to 80 days it will begin to turn black.

DISTRIBUTION: Found throughout mainland Australia and Tasmania; also occurs in Southern New Guinea.

CONSERVATION: Still fairly common, with the greatest numbers in the western, central and southern arid regions. In some parts of the country it is now found only in remote locations due to persecution and disturbance. Legally protected in all states.

FEATURES OF THE WEDGE-TAILED EAGLE Plumage: Black with tawny or cream feathers in places, including a prominent diagonal band across the inner wing. Flight: Soars high in the air on long, broad wings held in a “V”, with splayed tips and wedge-shape tail fanned. Nest: Huge platform of sticks, 1-2.5m in diameter. Lined with fresh leaves. Eggs: 1 to 3, usually 2, whitish, with sparse red-brown to purple blotches.

Key facts


Length: 85-105cm

Wingspan: 185-230cm

Weight: Male 3.2kg, Female 4.2 kg.


Sexual maturity: 6-7 years

Breeding season: April- December, depending on location.

No. Of broods: 1.

NO. of eggs: 1 to 3, usually 2, whitish with red-brown to purple markings.

Incubation: 42-48 days.

Fledging period: 70- 90 days.


Habit: Mainly solitary, in pairs or in family groups.

Call: Whistles, shrill screams.

Diet: Chiefly mammals – usually rabbits and hares; birds large lizards, carrion.


Closest relatives are the golden eagle, Aquila chrysaetos and Gurney’s eagle Aquila gurneyi.


The major problems associated with the Wedge-Tailed Eagle are shooting, poisoning and trapping. The species is being hunted by poachers for their value and are also hunted by farmers for the protection of their cattle. There has been a major loss in food supply thanks to hunters who kill the prey and the Eagle suffers from lack of food.


The Wedge-Tailed Eagle is now fully protected in Tasmania, but in other states it remains unprotected in some or all areas. The Western Australia and Queensland bounty was responsible for killing them, and this was not lifted until 1968. It was not until the late 1960's and 1970's that killing the Wedge-Tailed Eagle was banned in Australia. The species is now protected everywhere in Australia.

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