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Wedge-tailed Eagle

By Melanie Barsony, pictures by Sharon McGrigor


The Wedge-tailed Eagle is Australia’s largest bird of prey, with a wingspan of up to 2.5 metres, and 1metre long from beak to tail.

Eagle numbers have plummeted since white settlement due to the mistaken belief they preyed on lambs. Until recently they were shot, poisoned and trapped in the hundreds of thousands. During the 1960’s, 30,000 eagles were killed each year.

Intensive studies have proven that eagles actually kill very few lambs, and those lambs taken were usually sick and dying or in fact dead already. Carrion makes up a large part of the eagles’ diet, and preferred live food is wallabies, rabbits and foxes. (Foxes are the greatest killers of healthy lambs.)

Thankfully, Wedge-tailed Eagles are now protected and it is illegal to harm them in any way. Unfortunately they still have an uphill battle for survival. The problems facing them today are habitat destruction, poisoning from baits, reduced numbers of rabbits, and road accidents.
Some people still attempt to shoot them, and recently lead shot was revealed in an x-ray of an eagle with a broken wing.

As eagles are carrion feeders, they are drawn to road-kills. If you ever see an eagle feeding on the side of the road, slow down! The eagle is a heavy bird and it is surprising how slow they are to take flight. Often they fly across the traffic and into the path of a car.

Images by Wayne Fitzpatrick

Another way to help reduce accidents is to remove dead animals from the roadside, but only if it is safe to do so. Remember to always check the pouches of marsupials for live young.
If you do ever find an injured eagle, or any other native wildlife in distress, calls WIRES immediately on 66281898 and if possible stay with the bird / animal until a trained rescuer arrives. Do not attempt rescue of eagles on your own, as they can be dangerous, especially their impressive talons.

It would be a tragedy to lose these magnificent birds from our skies.


June 2013

By Melanie Barsony

The last thing a young man and his friend were expecting when driving their ute on a back road near Tabulam was a Wedge Tailed Eagle flying up from the side of the road.

Unfortunately that is exactly what happened. It collided with the car and went straight through the windscreen. The Eagle was a young female and she landed on the driver who amazingly was able to keep his cool avoiding a serious crash. The eagle was stunned and the drivers friend quickly covered her in a horse blanket so the driver was not injured further by her strong talons, he luckily escaped with minor cuts from the shattered windscreen.

The eagle came off second best with some cuts and a badly fractured wing between shoulder and elbow. Kim, Christine and Kate, WIRES rescuers from Drake were called to the rescue, and the eagle was then transferred to Casino raptor carer Melanie.



The unlucky Eagle was taken straight to the Casino Vet Clinic where she was x-rayed by veterinarian Phil. She was sedated and taken in to surgery to insert a pin into the fractured bone. Even though this magnificent Eagle has been a real problem patient, fighting both the strapping and the confinement, we are cautiously hopeful she will make a full recovery.

Please be aware Eagles often come down to road sides to feed on road kill such as kangaroos or rabbits. They are a large heavy bird, especially with a crop full of food and it can take them great effort and time to get fully air born, often across the road and into oncoming traffic.





UPDATE July 24

Our beautiful Wedge Tail is improving every day and she is getting more stretch and strength in her left wing. Time is drawing closer to the big day when she can once again fly free.

She was successfully released back to her home territory


Wedge-tailed Eagle images


Images by Melanie Barsony, Alicia Carter and Shaun Murphy

Updated March 2021  

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