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Wedge Tailed Eagle – rare species at Cradle Mountain Tasmania

13 March 2011 No Comment

Wedge Tailed eagle - TasmaniaIn the wild of Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park is a rare bird species.

With only 130 breeding pairs across the whole of Tasmania, the Wedge Tailed Eagle is endangered. Endangered by loss of habitat, collisions and electrocutions with powerlines compounded by years of persecution through shooting, trapping and poisoning by those who knew no better.

With luck and persistance it is possible to see a Wedge Tailed Eagle in the Cradle Mountain area. We have seen one majestically using the thermal updrafts above Cradle Mountain to soar. It was a special day.

Fast facts:
- The Tasmanian Wedgetailed Eagle is brownish-black in colour
- When mature it is becomes almost black
- The feathers are edged with a lighter brown.
- It’s legs are feathered
- It has a long, wedge-shaped tail (hence the name)
- It is a massive bird, standing over a metre tall, weighing up to 5 kg, and with a wing span of up to 2.2 m.

Diet
Wedge-tailed Eagles are terrific hunters concentrating on small mammals. They feed mainly on rabbits, hares, wallabies, possums, birds such as native hens and ravens and carrion (dead animals, often on the side of the road).

Habitat
The Eagles habitat is under threat in Tasmania. Preferring isolation and being away from habitation by humans the eagle’s habitat includes open plains, forests and mountains. It will hunt over a wide range of habitats, but only nests in old-growth trees in native forests.

Breeding
Wedge-tailed Eagles nests almost always in very large eucalypts (gum trees) sheltered from the wind. They are very shy and will often desert their nests if disturbed by land clearing, particularly early on in the breeding season, which is August to January. Although 1-3 eggs are laid, usually only one chick is raised.

Nests are traditional, with some having been used for at least 50 years. More than one nest may occur within a territory but only one is used in any one year.

Distribution

This subspecies is found only in Tasmania, and occurs throughout the State including large offshore islands. It hunts over a wide range of habitats, but nests only in old-growth trees in native forests. Densities range from one pair per 400 km2 or more to one pair per 60 km2, with distances of 5-20 km between active nests in adjacent territories. Densities are highest in areas with mosaics of forest, farmland, grassland, wetlands and rivers.

Image: Vern and Skeet via Flickr

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