The misunderstood Wedge-tailed Eagle

November 14, 2022

For nearly a century Wedge-tailed Eagles have faced threats to the survival of their species.

Since as early as 1920’s the Wedge-tailed Eagle has been considered a pest, especially with farmers who believe the birds are a threat to their livestock.

In fact, in Western Australia, State Government awarded community members five shillings per head to reduce population numbers of this species. While the bounty was in place, it is estimated that over 140,00 were killed in Western Australia between 1928 and 1968. Queensland also focused on population control of wedge-tailed eagles between 1951 and 1966 with 160,000 killed. Other states and territories have also had motivated culling efforts with wedge-tail eagles over the years.

Today, the eagles are protected under respective state laws, with penalties of up to $8,000 in fines and imprisonment for their persecution.

The wedge-tail eagle is Australia’s largest bird of prey and the mass culling of this species began in the 1920’s due to a misconception of farmers that they were feeding on their livestock. Many farmers were convinced that this large and powerful bird was killing their livestock (for example sheep) by capturing them in their talons and flying off with them. We now know that the Wedge-tail Eagle feeds on rabbits and mice, rather than sheep – or do we? Recent reports believe Wedge-tailed Eagles are still a target for inhumane, unethical and illegal culling.

In 2018 a Victoria Farmer pleaded guilty to poisoning 406 Wedge-tail Eagles over a period of two years. Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) was responsible for prosecuting the farmer and reported that it would take more than two-and-a-half years before breeding recovered to its pre-kill levels. Sadly, ABC reported feedback from wildlife officers who believe illegal killing of Wedge-tail Eagles is common and a national issue that needs to be address to ensure longevity of this Australian native bird species.

ABC Article – Farm worker who poisoned 406 wedge-tailed eagles in east Gippsland jailed and fined – ABC News