Little Eagle chick tracked from Canberra to Bundaberg


Canberra researchers were stunned when a Little Eagle they were tracking flew to Bundaberg and down to South Australia and Victoria.

The bird is facing extinction in the ACT and scientists decided to track their movements using GPS monitors.

Little Eagles are stocky, powerful birds with a wingspan over a metre. The females weigh almost twice as much as the males.

Little Eagle Bundaberg
Little Eagle chick

They usually live in woodland and open forest, nesting in mature trees on hillsides in open woodland and along tree-lined watercourses. They build stick nests and line them with leaves and may use nests of other birds such as ravens.

A GPS backpack was attached to a fledgling female chick reared on Black Mountain in the spring of 2017.

The GPS recorded an incredible journey that spanned from north of Bundaberg in Queensland, back south past the ACT into Victoria, then as far west as Port Pirie in South Australia and across to the East Gippsland region in Victoria where she was most recently recorded.

ACT Environment Minister, Mick Gentleman, said the monitoring project was improving understanding of the birds and confirmed they were continuing to breed in the Canberra area.

“Little Eagles are listed as vulnerable in the ACT and NSW. Thirteen nesting pairs were monitored this past breeding season — nine in the ACT and four in nearby NSW. Eight chicks were successfully raised, compared to five last year, with five in the ACT and three in NSW,” Mr Gentleman said.

“The joint research project is being undertaken by the ACT Government, Ginninderry Joint Venture, CSIRO and researchers from the Australian National University. This helps us better manage species within the ACT and points out a need for a national approach to caring for native animals.”

ACT Conservator Ian Walker said Little Eagle movements were monitored by attaching small satellite GPS backpacks to four of the breeding males.

“Three fledglings from the 2018 breeding season were also fitted with GPS trackers. All male and fledging birds with trackers left the ACT by mid-autumn. One adult male and one young bird have flown to Melbourne, while another adult male flew to north-west Queensland.”

The Society for the Preservation of Raptors says the Little Eagle is the world's smallest “true” or “booted” eagle.

A “booted” eagle's legs are feathered all the way down to the foot. They have a true crest, which is normally resting flat against the head when the bird is at rest, but raised when the bird wishes to appear larger.

They prey primarily upon feral rabbits and other land animals such as reptiles and small marsupials. They also feed on carrion, insects and occasionally birds.