Duncan – Wedge-tailed Eagle
Hatched: February 26, 1988
Duncan was the first Wedge-Tailed Eagle hatched by the World Bird Sanctuary. His parents were a breeding group, two males and one female. Duncan’s gender is unknown. As with most raptors, determining gender would require a surgical procedure, which we are reluctant to do unless necessary for other medical reasons.
Duncan has taken part in zoo programs in Wisconsin, Indiana, Virginia, Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma. He is doing his part to clear up the misconceptions about his species. Found throughout mainland Australia, as many as 30 to 40 birds have been observed feeding on a carcass, leading this species to be erroneously labeled as a livestock killer by Australian stockmen. This unfair view has made them the most persecuted species of the eagle family because, like the Golden Eagle, it is usually seen eating dead or dying livestock, and not preying on it. Their diet also includes wallabies, bandicoots, reptiles and, as a great service to the same stockowners who shoot and poison them, Wedgies seem to have a preference for rabbit.
Species: Wedge-tailed Eagle
Latin Name: Aquila audax
Description: large, lanky, black eagle with a golden nape and wedge-shaped tail; largest bird of prey in Australia; entirely glossy brownish black except for golden rufous feathers on the nape and some dark rufous brown under the wings; eyes are brown; cere (small area of bare skin above the bill) and feet are yellow; one subspecies has a buff colored nape; in immature birds the upper side is streaked with black and dark brown, with grey mottling underneath; full adult plumage is acquired after about 6 years
Sex: both sexes similar in appearance
Weight: 8-12 lbs.
Habitat: prefers open country, but is found in all kinds of habitats, from forests to near deserts; appears to be resident and non-migratory
Status: very common bird for its size in sparsely populated parts of Australia; has been persecuted by ranchers who mistakenly believe is it a sheep killer
Range: Australia, Tasmania, and perhaps accidentally in New Guinea
Behavior: a breeding pair will soar and hunt together, performing spectacular aerial maneuvers in which the male dives down at the female while in flight; she may then roll over and present her talons to him; breeding pairs will attack other eagles who invade their home range; a large nest is built of sticks in trees 20-40 feet above ground; a pair may have as many as six alternative nests; nests are reused and added to each year, reach as much as 8 feet wide and 8 feet deep; 2-4 eggs are laid at 4 day intervals; the female incubates and broods alone; the male brings food to the nest and she feeds it to the young; usually only one chick survives
Diet: preferred prey is rabbits and hares; also feeds on carrion, wallabies, birds, cats, foxes, ducks, herons and occasionally reptiles; 30-40 eagles may congregate at one carcass in the case of carrion
Vocalization: relatively silent, although calling is more frequent during mating season; most calls shrill or whistling; “I see I see” or “pee-ya pee-ya”; males emit an aggression call, “yessir”, at the sight of a rival; female’s voice is lower and more harsh than the male’s