Wedge-Tailed Eagle Facts: Lesson for Kids

There are many different types of birds in the world. One type of bird is the wedge-tailed eagle, and it is a fascinating creature. In this lesson, you will learn about the characteristics of the wedge-tailed eagle and what makes it unique among other birds.

Wedge-Tailed Eagle Characteristics

Look! Up in the sky!

It’s a bird!

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It’s a plane!

No, it’s…

A wedge-tailed eagle! Even though you might have been expecting the name of a red-caped superhero, the wedge-tailed eagle is just as amazing as the Man of Steel.

The wedge-tailed eagle is a bird that lives in Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea. The name ‘wedge-tailed’ comes from the long, fanned out diamond or ‘wedge’ shape of its tail. Sometimes called ‘wedgies,’ the wedge-tailed eagle is the largest bird in the raptor family, which includes birds who capture their own prey.

Wedge-Tailed Eagle
eagle

Wedge-tailed eagles are big birds…and not the yellow kind from your favorite childhood show about a famous street! Their wingspan, from the tip of one wing to the other, can be more than nine feet. In the 1930s, a female wedge-tailed eagle was recorded to have had a nine foot, four inch wingspan. That’s longer than the average giraffe’s neck!

Wedge-tailed eagles are brown in color when they are young and gradually get darker as they get older. Their bills are a light pink, while their feet are white. You can tell the difference between a female and a male because the female will be a lighter color than the male.

What other super facts are there about wedge-tailed eagles? Let’s find out!

Mighty Hunters

Some superheroes can fly. Some superheroes have super strength. Like the famous guy in a red cape, wedge-tailed eagles can fly and have strength, and they use both to help them catch their prey. Wedge-tailed eagles fly high in the sky and swoop down to catch their unsuspecting prey like a fighter jet going after an enemy aircraft.

Rabbits are a favorite food of the wedgies, and they can make up over 90% of their diet. Another big part of their diet is carrion, or dead animals. That’s right, they eat dead animals. This would be like you eating a nice plate of steaming roadkill from the side of the road. Perhaps its not the best tasting meal for you, but the wedge-tailed eagle seems to enjoy it!

Although a single wedge-tailed eagle cannot take down a large animal by itself, sometimes they hunt with a partner or in bigger groups. Larger groups of birds can kill animals as large as kangaroos. In fact, wedge-tailed eagles are incredibly strong and can lift up to half their body weight. Perhaps this is why the wedge-tailed eagle is brave enough to attack hang gliders!

Interactions with People

Sometimes superheroes are misunderstood. People can think that they are responsible for the crimes or destruction that villains bring to a city. In the same way, wedge-tailed eagles were once blamed in the 1950s and 1960s for the death of lambs on farms. Even though the wedge-tailed eagles were not the culprits, people killed hundreds of thousands of them. It’s kind of like you being grounded for something you didn’t even do, only much worse!

Deforestation is a threat to the bird
deforestation

Wedge-tailed eagles are also threatened by people today. When people clear lands for building projects or farm land, called deforestation, they take away the habitat of the birds. Additionally, the use of pesticides can harm the wedge-tailed eagle. In fact, in Tasmania, the wedge-tailed eagle is officially endangered.

Sounds like the wedge-tailed eagle could use a superhero to help it!

Lesson Summary

The wedge-tailed eagle is the largest raptor in Australia. It is a powerful hunter that eats live prey and carrion. Deforestation and pesticides currently threaten the wedge-tailed eagle.

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