Portrait of a female Wedge-Tailed Eagle, Renmark Sanctuary, South Australia.
Canon 500D, Tamron zoom lens.
(Featured in Love These Creatures, & Other Groups.)
The Wedge-tailed Eagle (Aquila audax), sometimes known as the Eaglehawk (an slight misnomer, as it is among the largest raptors) in its native range, is the largest bird of prey in Australia, but it is also found in southern New Guinea. It has long, fairly broad wings, fully feathered legs, and an unmistakable wedge-shaped tail. Because of both its tail and its size – it is one of the largest birds of prey in the world – it can be identified at a glance as a “Wedgie” even by the non-expert.
The Wedge-tailed Eagle is one of twelve species of large predominantly dark-coloured eagles in the genus Aquila found worldwide. A large brown bird of prey, it has a wingspan of up to 2.27 metres (7.4 ft) and a length up to 1.04 metres (3.4 ft). The female Wedge-tailed Eagle weighs between 3 and 5.77 kg (6.6 and 12.7 lb), while the smaller males weigh 2 to 4 kg (4.4 to 8.8 lb).
They are highly aerial, soaring for hours on end without wingbeat or effort, regularly reaching 1,800 metres (5,900 ft) and sometimes considerably higher. The purpose of this very high flight is unknown. Their keen eyesight extends into the infrared and ultraviolet bands. This helps them spot prey and allows them to see rising thermals, which they can use to gain altitude while expending little energy.
Most prey is captured on the ground in gliding attacks or (less frequently) in the air. Choice of prey is very much a matter of convenience and opportunity. Since the arrival of Europeans, the introduced rabbit and Brown Hare have become the primary items of the eagle’s diet in many areas. The Wedge-tails can eat almost anything of a suitable size, live-caught or as carrion. They often fall prey themselves to vehicles when they are eating road-kill as they are slow to take off.
(1000 views at 10 July 2015)