The wedge-tailed (Aquila audax) eagle is native to Australia and commonly known as the Eaglehawk. These huge birds of prey are spread throughout Australia and even in Southern New Guinea. The name of the bird is derived from the shape of its tail. This bird has a heavy body and a wide wing span that enables it to glide swiftly in the sky at a great height. Eaglehawks are known to live up to 20 years and pairs stay faithful to each other.
Distribution and Habitat
These majestic species of bird is spread all over the continent of Australia. These birds prefer living away from the city and mainly in forest areas. Eaglehawks are adaptable birds but prefer to stay in a peaceful and undisturbed environment.
The male eaglehawks are darker than the females. The young ones of these eagles are light brown in color and have reddish heads. As they mature their color turns darker. The chicks of this species develop within few weeks. The second week after the hatching of the chicks, they begin to develop feathers. The female eaglehawk weighs around 7.1 to 12lbs and males weigh around 4.4 and 8.8lbs. These birds are built with a wide wingspan which measures around 227 cm. These birds grow up to a height of 1 meter. Eagles have a very sharp eyesight and can hunt their prey even if they fly very high. They have a hooked long beak which helps them to tear open the carcass and rip the meat. Their claws are huge and strong enough to have a good grip over their prey and even to cling on to a branch.
This largest bird of prey has a varied diet and mainly feeds on ground animals. Rabbits constitute a maximum of their diet, but, they also consume kangaroos, hares, wallabies, snakes, ravens, foxes, sheep and lizards. Most of their prey are caught while landing on the ground and pinning them against the ground by their claws. In order to hunt big animals, these eagles will form a flock and hunt together.
Breeding and Nesting
Eaglehawks opt for tall trees to get a good view. They build large nests either in tall trees or on the edge of the cliff. The nest is 2 meters wide and 4 meters deep. It is made out of sticks and the top of the nest is shallow and ringed with fresh leaves. These eagles maintain the same partner for years and use the same home during their nesting season.
The breeding of these birds take place from April to September. Both the male and female look after their nest and their young ones till they are old enough to take flight and fend for themselves. The female lays around 2-3 eggs which hatch separately. Whichever chick hatches first, it is always larger than the next hatching. The breeding process depends on the availability of food. The first chick is the strongest and has more chances to survive. In case of less food supply, the largest chick will eat the smaller chicks. In the initial weeks, the parents feed their young ones and later the chicks make attempts to feed themselves. In order to stay safe from predators, the little ones lay flat in the nest so that they are not easily spotted. Young eaglehawks live up to 11-12 weeks with their parents before taking leave into the wild.
Earlier, the eaglehawks were a common bird of prey in Australia, however, deforestation has brought down their population. As per the record, there are only 200 pairs of Tasmanian wedged-tailed eagle alive. Even hunting of these eagles is considered illegal. Juvenile eaglehawks are at more risk from predators and also from feeding on carcass of a sick animal. These factors have disrupted their breeding and nesting ground and therefore, these birds are rated as endangered species.
These facts about the eaglehawks give you a brief idea about these birds of prey. Due to drastic reduction in their number, it has become a matter of concern. Such birds form an important part of our eco-system and must be protected from extinction.