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little eagle

Little Eagle

The Little Eagle (Aquila morphnoides) is a very small eagle native to Australasia.

It measures 45–55 cm (17–21.5 inches) in length and weighing 815 g (1.8 lb) – roughly the size of a Peregrine Falcon. It tends to inhabit open woodland, grassland and arid regions, shunning dense forest. It is a near relative of both the Palearctic Booted Eagle and, remarkably, the massive but now extinct Haast's Eagle of New Zealand.

Reproduction

Little eagles nest in open woodland (usually on hillsides) and along tree-lined watercourses, with the nest typically placed in a mature, living tree. The birds build a stick nest lined with leaves and may use different nests in successive years, including those of other birds such as crows. A pair of Little Eagles will only reproduce once a year and each pair will only produce one or two eggs per season, usually laid in late August to early September. After an incubation period of about 37 days, one or two young are fledged after approximately eight weeks. Maturity in terms of breeding takes two to three years, leaving a large population of juvenile eagles, mature eagles comprise of roughly less than three-quarters of the population.

Little eagle nesting territories are defended against intruders and advertised by soaring, undulating flight display, conspicuous perching and/or calling. Movement behaviour varies between individuals, and may be partly migratory (being an altitudinal migrant), dispersive or permanently resident. They tend to slip away at the first sign of human intrusion.

Prey

Little eagles hunt live prey and occasionally take carrion. The eagles search for prey by soaring (up to 500m altitude) or by using an elevated exposed perch. The species is an agile, fast hunter swooping to take prey on the ground in the open but also from trees and shrubs. Recorded prey species (from feeding observations, nest remains and faecal pellets) show considerable variation indicating a broad diet, which seems to be determined primarily by the availability of prey of a suitable size. The Little Eagle would originally feed on small birds, mammals and reptiles and supplement its diet with large insects on occasion, however with the introduction of rabbits and foxes the Little Eagle’s diet changed. Rabbits became widely abundant very quickly after being introduced, competing for habitat with native mammals. The introduction of foxes can also be attributed to the decline of the Little Eagle’s main source of prey. Its diet comprises mostly rabbits and to a lesser extent birds (especially rosellas, magpie-larks and starlings).

Threats

The main threats to the species are the destruction and degradation of its foraging and breeding habitat causing it to come into competition with the larger and more dominant Wedge Tailed Eagle or Aquila audax. The Wedge-tailed Eagle is not necessarily a predator of the Little Eagle but the two species share common habitat and prey and the large size and dominant nature of the Wedge Tailed Eagle could mean that the little eagle would be forced out of hunting and breeding grounds.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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