With an impressive wingspan of around 2.3 metres, wedge-tailed eagles rule the skies as Australia’s largest birds of prey. Their distinctive diamond-shaped tails make them easy to distinguish from other raptors.
Equipped with hooked beaks, sharp eyesight, and even sharper talons, wedge-tailed eagles are perfectly adapted predators. Their prey can range from rats and rabbits to wallabies and even small kangaroos, and they play an important role in the ecosystem by controlling populations of pest species. While they are adept hunters, they are also known to be opportunistic and unlikely to pass up the chance for an easy feed. As a result, wedge-tailed eagles can often be seen feeding on carrion such as road kill, making busy roads and highways tempting buffets.
The saying “you are what you eat” sometimes proves too true for wedge-tailed eagles as their road-side dining habits can result in them becoming roadkill themselves. Stuffed with bellies full of food, eagles find themselves too heavy to fly out of the way of approaching cars.
This was the case for one relatively lucky wedge-tailed eagle named “Spirit” who managed to survive a car strike. Unfortunately, Spirit didn’t come away unscathed and sustained injuries including a broken wing, which limited his ability to fly and prevented him from being able to survive in the wild. His soaring days may be over, but his hunting days are not thanks to some clever thinking from our team of raptor keepers. These day’s Spirit’s “prey” is a bit more high-tech, but it still gives him a good run-around.
Toying around with Enrichment
The team had the clever idea of using a remote-controlled toy car with a tasty bit of meat attached to replicate the act of chasing down and catching prey items. This gives Spirit the opportunity to practice his natural hunting behaviours in a new and exciting way, with perhaps just a touch of poetic justice in that now he’s the one hitting the car and not the other way around. The raptor team gives the car a bit of a head-start before releasing Spirit to chase it down and attack his “robo-prey.”
So, while this amazing eagle’s wing may be broken, as his name implies, his spirit (and hunting instincts) are still very much in-tact.
You can help protect wedge-tailed eagles in the wild by sticking to the speed limit and keeping a keen eye out whilst driving. If you do happen to see an eagle (or any animal) on the road, slow down as much as possible and honk your horn to give them a warning.