Wedge Tailed Eagle Facts | Anatomy, Diet, Habitat, Behavior

The wedge-tailed eagle (Aquila audax) is the largest bird of prey of Australia. The eagle is one of the world’s largest birds with the wingspan measuring more than 9 feet. An isolated population also occurs in some parts of Papua New Guinea, southern New Guinea, and Indonesia.

Wedge Tailed Eagle Facts

Anatomy

  • The adult female averages 3 and 5.77 kg (6.6 and 12.7 lb) while males weigh up to 2 to 4 kg (4.4 to 8.8 lb). Like other birds of prey, females are larger than the males.
  • They grow up to 81 and 106 cm (32 and 42 in) and the wingspan measures about 182 and 232 cm (6 ft 0 in and 7 ft 7 in).
  • Its legs are all covered with baggy feathers while the head is massively flat.
  • Wedge tailed eagle has got the largest wingspan of all eagle species.
  • The length of the tail is 45 cm (18 in).
  • They have a mid-brown plumage along with some reddish-brown wings. The adults show much darker color as compared to young eagles.
  • They seem to overlap their range with white-bellied sea eagle.

Distribution & Habitat

  • The wedge tailed eagle is thought to occur all throughout Australia occupying much of southern New Guinea and Tasmania. They will make homes in open savannas or grasslands.
  • The habitat includes coastal heath, dry woodland, temperate rainforest, cleared land, sub-alpine forest, and dwarf coniferous forest
wedge tailed eagle
Wedge Tailed Eagle ©www.birdphotos.com.au

Behavior

  • Wedge tailed eagle spend hours soaring at a height of about 1,800 m (5,900 ft)—a behavior not understood by the scientists. During their high flight they beat wings but only sometimes.
  • Eagles typically hunt prey on the ground and rarely in the mid-air.

Feeding Ecology & Diet

  • They will not rely on large mammals but occasionally feed on feral cats and foxes. The wedge tailed eagle’s diet consists of koalas, kangaroos, bandicoots, possums, and wallabies.
  • Eagles also consume birds such as crows, cockatoos, ibises, emus, and ducks.
  • They are less likely to prey on reptiles such as goannas, brown snakes, and frill-necked lizards. Eagles adapt to prey on young red kangaroos as well as causing goats or sheep to fall off steep hillsides.
  • Carrion makes the major portion of the eagle’s diet.
  • Rabbits and hares make up 60 – 70% of its diet.

Reproductive Biology

  • During breeding season, the wedge tailed eagle performs many aerobatic displays.
  • The eagle nests 30 meters above the ground sometimes on a leopardwood tree while sometimes on a cliff edge.
  • Unique among eagle’s behavior is that both male and female destroys the old nest when the female is about to lay eggs. Sometimes though they might line nest with new sticks or twigs just to give it a new look.
  • The depth of the nest is 2 – 5 meters with the width measuring up to 2 – 5 meters.
  • A female lays 2 eggs. Both parents will incubate the eggs. The eggs measure about 73 mm x 59 mm.
  • A female lays eggs after 2 – 4 days of interval.
  • The hatching period lasts about 6 weeks. Once chicks attain one month age the mother will not brood them. However, the young depends on their mother for as long as 180 days.
  • Wedge tailed eagles attain maturity at 3 to 5 years of age.
  • The average lifespan of wedge tailed eagle is 22 years. One captive bird lived up to 40 years.
  • They continue to use their old nesting sites for about 50 years.
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