Little eagle but big heart

ACT's tallest tree

Soaring upon a thermal updraft, a magnificent bird of prey surveys the skyline. With wings spread wide, tail feathers fan-like, this petite predator glides effortlessly, eyes peeled sharp. A bird of prey on a quest.

The laws of physics dictate that to stay aloft requires forward motion. A circular movement. Lazy circles of fluent momentum. Conserving energy is the key to survival. Excessive wing flapping can be detrimental.

As one of Australia’s three eagles the Little Eagle has a big heart. Like its big cousin, the Wedge-Tailed Eagle, and the White-bellied Sea Eagle, our Little Eagle certainly punches above its weight.

One of the smallest eagles in the world, the Little Eagle is threatened. Originally found throughout mainland Australia, over the last 30 years there has been a suspected population decline across the south-eastern states.

Little Eagles are stocky, powerful birds with a wingspan over a metre. Interestingly the females weigh almost twice as much as the males. With a broad head, fully feathered legs, a square-cut barred tail, they are an imposing little bird. A pale ‘M’ marking on their underside is a distinguishing feature easily seen when casting an eye skyward.

Little Eagles usually live in woodland and open forest, nesting in mature trees on hillsides and along tree-lined watercourses. Although they build intricate stick nests, lining them with leaves, Little Eagles have been known to use nests of other birds such as ravens.
Sightings of the Little Eagle have been recorded across the bush capital, but their breeding range is usually restricted to open woodland areas below 800 metres altitude.

A joint research project is being undertaken to monitor the ecology and movement of the Little Eagle. Amazingly, researchers have installed remote cameras at known nesting sites to provide an incredible bird-eye’s view of their family dynamics. Satellite trackers, delicately attached, reveal awe-inspiring sojourns up and down the east coast of Australia.

Leaving her Black Mountain home, a female fledging recently migrated to Queensland via Wee Waa in central NSW and Banana in central Queensland. After spending a few weeks in and around the Toowoomba area and a couple of months around Bundaberg, she decided to head back south.

After flying an incredible 2000 kilometres, last week she visited the Mornington Peninsula and flew across Melbourne and southern Victoria to South Australia.

See more about the Little Eagle 

Photo credit: Stuart Rae

Brett McNamara is with ACT Parks & Conservation Service

Brett Mac

Brett McNamara - Regional Manager with ACT Parks & Conservation Service

Brett loves our national parks almost as much as the Gang-gang on his uniform. He is prone to using the word 'majestic' when referring to the bush capital. He loves talking. A lot. His favourite animal is the playful platypus.

Article also appeared on 27 November in The Chronicle