Ian’s Bird of the Week – Wedge-tailed Eagle

Wedge-tailed Eagles (Aquila audax) by Ian

Wedge-tailed Eagles (Aquila audax) by Ian

Newsletter –  8/13/2009

The choice this week of Wedge-tailed Eagle was inspired by reading about the project to reintroduce Golden Eagles to Ireland, see http://www.goldeneagle.ie/ . There is good news and bad news there, but more about that later.

Wedge-tailed Eagles (Aquila audax) and Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) are very closely related and considered by some to belong to a ‘super-species’. The genus Aquila, the classical eagles, comprises 12 species and all have feathered legs, giving them a trousered appearance as in the first photo. The Wedge-tailed Eagle occurs commonly throughout mainland Australia and southern New Guinea as the nominate race (meaning it bears the same name as the species – audax) and in Tasmania as the endangered race fleayi where only 60 – 80 pairs remain.

Wedge-tailed Eagles (Aquila audax) by Ian

Wedge-tailed Eagles (Aquila audax) by Ian

Eagles have long suffered persecution from landholders by shooting and poisoning because of their supposed predation on livestock, particularly lambs. The Golden Eagle and the White-tailed Sea-Eagle became extinct in Ireland early in the 20th century along with other raptors such as the Red Kite, while the Common Buzzard retained a tenuous toe-hold on Rathlin Island, in Northern Ireland, with about 20 pairs. One of the success stories of conservation in Ireland is that Buzzards have recolonized most of Ireland since the use of Strychnine as a ‘pest’ bait – aimed at foxes and Hooded Crows – was banned in the Irish Republic in 1990. http://www.birdway.com.au/accipitridae/common_buzzard/index.htm

One of my regrets as a youngster in Ireland – even before I became a fanatical birdwatcher – was that the skies of the rugged west coast were empty of large raptors. I felt that a soaring eagle – like the Wedge-tailed in the second photo – was the one thing lacking from such dramatic and romantic landscapes. I have a clear memory of climbing Slievemore (‘big mountain’) in Achill Island, Co Mayo, at the age of 9 or 10 and deliberately misidentifying a kestrel as an eagle and reporting it to my mother. Sensible mothers, like mine (‘yes, dear’), know how to distinguish childish fantasies from deliberate lies. I’ve only just discovered that the name Achill, is though to derive an old Irish word ‘eccuill’ meaning, you’ve guessed it, eagle. http://www.minauncliffcottages.com/achill_island.htm

Back to the present. There was celebration in Ireland in 2007 on the occasion of the first fledging of a (reintroduced) Golden Eagle in the Irish Republic in over a century in Glen Veigh, a national park in Co. Donegal. The 2008 season produced, disappointingly no new recruits, but I read this morning that the same pair has just reared two young (with a bit of help from their friends). Jubilation has been tempered by the poisoning of some of the Golden Eagles in Donegal, some of the reintroduced White-tailed Sea-Eagles in Killarney, Co. Kerry, and Red Kites in Co. Wicklow. Neither of the latter two species have bred yet, so it remains to be seen whether the sheep farmers of Ireland will continue to disappoint romantic kids, young and old, in the 21st century.

If you want to do something, you can add your signature to a petition about these poisonings being organized by the Golden Eagle Trust. As of today, there were nearly 7,000 signatures from 59 countries with Australia coming 9th with 85 signatures.

Best wishes,
Ian

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au
Website: http://birdway.com.au


Lee’s Addition:
The eagle is mentioned many times (34 in KJV) in the Bible. They were not to be eaten and I am sure those few remaining pairs are thankful for that. Their strength, rapid and swift flights, gatherings, nests, spreading of wings, and other aspects are mentioned. One of my favorite verses is:

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31 KJV)

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