The Wedge-tailed Eagle is Australia’s largest raptor with its characteristic long, wedge-shaped tail. The adult Wedge-tail measures approximately 1 metre from beak to tail and can have a wingspan of up to 2.5 m. Female average weight is 4.2 kg – 5.3 kg and they are larger and heavier than males (3.2 kg up to 4.0 kg). Both male and female legs are feathered all the way to the base of the toes, feet are off-white. The bill is pale pink to cream, the eye brown to dark brown.
Young Wedge-tailed Eagles are mid brown in colour with reddish-brown heads and wings, as they age they become progressively darker; adults are mostly dark blackish-brown. Adult females are slightly paler than her mate.
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.)
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. Sadly they can fly across the traffic and into the path of a car.