Monday, February 20, 2012

Animal of the Week: Wedge Tailed Eagle

The wedge tailed eagle is the largest bird of prey in Australia. With a wingspan of up to 2.5 meters and a length of over one meter, the wedge tailed eagle is an amazing sight soaring through the air. Wedge tailed eagles can be found around Australia, including Tasmania as well as in southern New Guinea. They are comfortable in many habitats including forest, open plains or mountainous regions.

Adult males will hold the same territory throughout the year and one paired will help a female build a nest in the fork of a tree. A wedge tailed eagle pair will often have several nests around their territory. At mating time the pair will perch close together and preen each other. The male will also perform elaborate flying displays including diving downwards at great speeds towards his mate before changing direction and soaring off just a few meters above her. She will either ignore him or join him in flight where she will fly with him upside down or performing tricks such as a loop-the-loop.

Once the eggs are laid incubation lasts for about 45 days. A good season will produce two chicks although it is common for one chick to kill it's sibling. In arid, drought affected areas, pairs may hold off on breeding for several years. The young eagles depend on their parents for food for up to six months after hatching. They leave only when the next breeding season approaches.

Wedge tailed eagles will spend hours soaring around their territory without a wing beat or effort, regularly reaching 1,800 metres (5,900 ft) and sometimes considerably higher. Their keen eyesight extends into the infrared and ultraviolet bands. This helps them spot prey and allows them to see rising thermals, which they can use to gain altitude while expending little energy.

Increased human activity has increased the in some ways been beneficial to the wedge tailed eagle. A large portion of their diet is carrion and with increased amounts of roadkill you can often find wedge tailed eagles feeding on the side of the road. Some times they will congregate around carrion in numbers in their thirties. However it is uncommon for more than one to eat at once. While one is feeding the rest will stand around digesting and waiting their turn.

Since European settlement, the introduced rabbit and Brown Hare have become the primary items of the eagle's diet in many areas. They display considerable adaptability, and have sometimes been known to team up to hunt animals as large as the Red Kangaroo, to cause goats to fall off steep hillsides and injure themselves, or to drive flocks of sheep or kangaroos to isolate a weaker animal. Wedge-tailed Eagles may also kill young calves.

The IUCN conservation of the wedge tailed eagle is "Least Concern", however the Tasmanian subspecies is listed as endangered with fewer than 200 breeding pairs in the wild. One danger to them are wind turbines (click here for a news article). However the increase in road kill and the reduction of the number Tasmanian Devils, another carrion eater, is helping their plight.

Eagle Medicine
Eagle medicine is the connection to the Great Spirit. Eagle soars high above the land and thus is closer to the heavens that man can be. Send your prayers to Eagle, and he will rise above the chaos to meet Great Spirit and return, with a vision for you.

You too must take flight. It is time for you to soar to great heights. You must have a willingness to face the extremes, to push yourself to your limits. Through facing these challenges you will undergo a great spiritual initiation and reach a new zenith of your self growth. It is time to go beyond your dreams.

If eagle has come into your life it is a reminder that it is time to reconnect with the universe and your reasons for being here. What is your path and how are you contributing to the Greater Good? If you are not clear, connect with the eagle, ask him to aid your contact with the Great Spirit. He will bring you answers and then, like eagle, set your eyes on the target and take flight.

In your spiritual pursuits, you must still remember to stay grounded and connected to the Earth. Eagle's strong talons ensures he has a strong grasp wherever he lands. You too must not get lost up in your head with your spiritual pursuits.

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