Wedge-tailed Eagle

Wedge-tailed eagleThe Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle (Aquila audax fleayi) is an endemic subspecies and is listed as endangered under the Tasmanian Threatened Species Protection Act 1995. It is included in the Federal list as an endangered subspecies. 

Why is it a threatened species here in Tasmania?

The wedge-tailed eagle is listed as endangered in Tasmania for several reasons. First, the number of breeding pairs and the breeding success rate is quite low and second, death from unnatural causes remains high.

Nesting sites of these birds are recorded and collated onto a map revealing about 400 territories exist in Tasmania, although not all territories have successfully breeding pairs. Each pair usually lays one egg per year. Less than half of the territories produce a chick.

Changing attitudes

Those chicks that make it to fledgling stage still have to survive to adulthood. Juvenile birds are most at risk. They are still learning to hunt for themselves and are more likely to scavenge on dead lambs. Although attitudes are changing and it is recognised that lambing losses to eagles are relatively small, usually involving sick lambs, wedge-tailed eagles are still being illegally shot or poisoned. Some farmers have developed more educated ways to deal with eagles during lambing, such as throwing the juveniles a few dead rabbits at this time.

What is being done?

The Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle has been subject to Recovery Plans since 1992. Actions have included increasing public awareness of the wedge-tailed eagle's plight, educating the public about the eagle's importance and consulting with farmers to protect nest sites and reduce disturbances near nests during breeding.

Wedge-tailed eagles are shy breeders, which means they may desert their nests if disturbed. By encouraging foresters and other land managers to retain at least 10 hectares of bush around nest sites more nests will remain active. These kinds of actions are being included in Forest Practices Plans as a result of Tasmania's Forest Practices Code.

Learning about the importance of wedge-tailed eagles and dispelling the myths of an eagle's diet has encouraged farmers to change their attitudes about these birds. Unfortunately the birds are still at risk from vandals, shooters who just like to shoot them because they are an easy target. Hopefully this attitude too can be changed.

Please report injured and dead wedge-tailed eagles immediately - phone DPIPWE's Nature Conservation Enquiries on (03) 6233 6556 or via the switchboard 1300 368 550 (local call).

The wedge-tailed distribution map is shown below

Recommended Further Reading:

  • Anon 1988. Living With Wildlife: Eagles. Parks and Wildlife Service, Tasmania.
  • Anon 1993. Forest Practices Code. Forestry Tasmania.
  • Bell, PJ and Mooney NJ (1998) The Wedge-tailed Eagle Recovery Plan 1998-2003. Parks and Wildlife Service, Hobart.
  • Brown, WE and Mooney, NJ, 1997. Modelling the Nesting Habitat of the Wedge-tailed Eagle (Aquila audax fleayi) in Tasmania. Report to the RFA Environment and Heritage Technical Committee.
  • Gaffney RF and NJ Mooney 1992. The Wedge-tailed Eagle Recovery Plan. Parks and Wildlife Service, Tasmania.
  • Mooney NJ. and M. Holdsworth, 1991. The Effects of Disturbance on Nesting Wedge-tailed Eagles in Tasmania. Tasforests
  • Mooney NJ. and R. Taylor, 1996. Value of Nest Site Protection in Ameliorating The Effects of Forestry Operations on Wedge-tailed Eagles in Tasmania, in (eds) D. Bird, D. Varland and J. Negro, Raptors In Human Landscapes: Adaptations to Built and Cultivated Environments. Raptor Research Foundation, Academic Press.


Threatened Species Section - Enquiries

GPO Box 44,
HOBART, TAS, 7001.