Waranga News

Little eagle (or booted eagle) rescued

2020-03-26

Little eagle (or booted eagle) rescued image

Here at Bohollow wildlife still need rescuing and we are being sensible and following all the precautions in relation to keeping us all safe. I would like to add that you CANNOT catch the Covid-19 virus from any wildlife or animals, it is human to human transmission so keep yourselves as safe as possible. It is still perfectly safe to stop and check pouches, assist injured wildlife and call us for help.

I attended a rescue of a bird of prey near Kyabram on Sunday. I was told it was an injured hawk down in a paddock, unable to fly.

When I arrived, as I approached the bird I realised that the hawk was indeed a Little Eagle. The bird gave me a bit of a chase but i quickly caught her up. I performed a quick on site assessment and no fractures, a few fresh marks on both wings, body and feet but superficial, she was going to be ok. Possibly hit a barbed wire fence.

It has been a couple of years since I have seen a Little Eagle in care at Bohollow. We have three species of eagle in Australia, the Wedge-tailed Eagle which is our largest bird of prey and who most people know just for their sheer size, the White-bellied Sea Eagle, which is almost as large as the Wedge-tailed Eagle and frequents both coastal and inland waterways, but our third and less known eagle is a small eagle named the Little Eagle.

Little Eagles hold a special place in my heart as a Little Eagle was one of the first diurnal raptors I cared for many years ago. She had a wing fracture which avian specialist Doug Black surgically pinned for me and she left a long lasting impact. I learnt much about the specialist care of birds of prey through this magnificent bird and she is one I will never forget. Little Eagles have the ability to lift up a beautiful dark crest right on top of their head and I recall sneaking a peak at this bird while she was eating and catching her for the first time with her crest fully erect and was in absolute awe of the beauty in this bird.

Little Eagles are what we call ‘booted eagles’. This term means that they have feathered legs all the way down to their feet, almost like feathered pants. This is an easy way to tell the difference between an eagle and other birds of prey in Australia, although our Sea Eagle has bare legs like the other raptor species, this is to enable hunting on the water easier as less drag as they hit the water and grab a fish with those unbelievably strong feet.

Little Eagles have the typical eagle look about their head and can often be described by people who find them as a baby Wedgetailed, although the size difference is massive.

When flying overhead, they can be easily confused with our large Whistling Kite as the distinct patterns underneath both birds wings are very similar to each other. The Whistling Kite is a much more slender bird with longer wings, longer tail and of course bare legs.

Little Eagles are solitary birds and rarely hunt in dense wooodland, preferring open ground for hunting. They are a heavy, solid bird who rarely takes prey in flight, usually grabbing prey on the ground from a dive which we call a stoop or gliding down from the air or a perch. Prey includes rabbits, reptiles, birds and they can sometimes prey on large insects and carrion. Around this area I believe their preferred prey is rabbits.

Like our other eagles, they can spend a lot of their time soaring so high we cannot even see them with the naked eye!

Although their range is widespread across mainland Australia, these are a raptor species which appears to be declining and from personal experience, I do not see as many of them around as I used to many years ago.

I am hoping that this beautiful bird will be able to return to her wild home reasonably quickly and it will be a special day indeed to see her hit the skies again. Meanwhile, I will have the pleasure of having such a wonderful bird in care once more, watching her antics and providing her the chance to heal and recover.

This is why I do what I do and I never tire of the amazing species which I am so privileged to work with to give them a second chance to soar free.

For injured wildlife contact Kirsty at Bohollow on: 0447 636 953