Australia’s largest bird of prey – the wedge-tailed eagle (Aquila audax) – has not been spared the ill-effects of habitat loss and persecution. It may still be a relatively common sight gliding majestically on lofty thermals over open country, but its future is by no means assured in NSW.
Farmers once regarded wedge-tailed eagles as vermin and bounties were paid for their scalps. In one year alone, it was estimated that 30,000 wedge-tailed eagles were killed. It is now illegal to kill, trap or poison these magnificent birds.
Wedge-tailed eagle habitat
The wedge-tailed eagle lives all over Australia but is most common in open woodland areas that are ideal for hunting. It eats a varied diet, including rabbits, kangaroos, wallabies, reptiles, other birds, foxes, possums, feral cats and sheep. Eagles will also feed on carrion.
Threats to the wedge-tailed eagle
Although the extent of open woodlands in NSW has expanded due to agriculture and livestock production, this has not always been to the eagle’s benefit. As we have seen in Tasmania, where the wedge-tailed eagle is now endangered, the clearing of forests has also robbed the bird of potential nesting sites. Disturbances to nesting pairs, accidental poisoning by pesticides or baits, and road injuries pose additional threats.
Solutions – What can be done?
While the mainland wedge-tailed eagle species is classed as secure, land owners need to be conscious of maintaining and conserving the nesting habitat upon which these regal birds depend.
The Nature Conservation Trust’s conservation work on private lands is helping to protect habitat for the wedge-tailed eagle.