Meet the Eagles


was a late-fledging eagle reared during the 2016 breeding season, being satellite-tagged just prior to making his first flight on 13th December 2016. He was one of only 3 eaglets to successfully fledge in what was a very dry year at Matuwa, the driest I have experienced since commencing research here 5 years ago. Martu students from the Wiluna Remote Community School named this eagle after I visited them and gave a talk about recent research findings the day after he was sat-tagged, and in language the word means 'cool' or 'awesome'. We are all looking forward to keeping track of this beautiful bird's first movements!


'joined' the satellite-tracked 'family' of Wedge-tails on 21st October 2016. She was only the second eaglet to to be reared by the 'pen' pair of wedgies in its 'new' composition (from 2014 onwards Mulga had a different female who replaced Gidjee). This pair's first nesting attempt in 2014 failed, and they produced a single fledgling in 2015. Goonta was a lucky survivor from a brood of 'twins', both of which grew to at least 6-weeks of age, but we found evidence of the second chick beneath the nest, indicating it had been a victim of late siblicide. This is unusual among wedgies as siblicide normally occurs during the first fortnight of nest life, so perhaps it was the result of a sudden shortage of food. Goonta, which means 'shy' or 'quiet' was named by Martu elder Rita Cutter, who noticed she lay flat and quiet on the nest as we approached to band her. Sadly, Goonta only lasted a month after fledging, being found dead on the ground close to her nest on 16th December 2016. We are unsure why she died - a postmortem did not yield any conclusions - but the harsh arid zone environment appears the most likely cause.


was the single 2014 addition to our satellite-tracked 'family' of Wedge-tails, being fitted with a solar PTT on 18th November 2014, just prior to fledging. He was one of only 4 eaglets to successfully fly the nest despite a good year at Matuwa this year. The word 'djarrkanpa' is, like all our eagle names, derived from the Martu language and means 'little boy', to keep up the theme I started with our tagged juveniles. Djarrkanpa made his first very short flight on 25th November but was sadly found dead on 16th January, while still largely dependent on 'mum and dad' for food. The cause of death could not be confirmed but given temperatures soared to over 50˚C that week, it is thought extreme heat was responsible. A postmortem could not find any conclusive evidence for this bird's death.


is an adult male Wedge-tailed Eagle who was trapped on 14th June 2013, at which time he was aged about 5 years old. He was the first ever Wedge-tailed Eagle to be fitted with a solar Argos GPS/Satellite Transmitter. Tracking data from his PTT have shown his home range to be about 30-40 square kilometres, an area which he shares with his mate Wurru. These names were taken from the local Aboriginal (Martu) word for eagle, which is 'Wallu-wurru.'

In their territory is a long ridge clad with tall nest trees, where Wallu and Wurru have 3 nests. They also spend time soaring above two large salt lakes, which fill up with water during very wet periods, usually after summer thunderstorms. Adjoining the lake system are many areas with heavily-used rabbit warrens, creating a useful food source for Wallu and his mate, particularly during breeding. Despite this, their 2012 breeding attempt failed, probably because of a heat wave where the daily maxima exceeded 40˚C for more than 10 consecutive days, which likely caused the eaglet's death. In 2013 Wallu and Wurru lined another nest in preparation to breed but there was no evidence that eggs were laid, and in 2014 eggs were probably laid and hatched, but the eaglets didn't survive for more than a week. Their continued efforts paid off in 2015, however, when 2 chicks survived and fledged from a new nest built very close to one of the most densely populated rabbit warrens in their territory

was an adult female Wedge-tail that was trapped late in the afternoon on 15th June 2013. She was probably older than Wallu as she was much darker, making her at least 7 years and possibly well over 10. After capture, she gorged herself on the bait inside her trap, eating half a feral cat and the hind leg of a kangaroo, so was very full up when we released her! Gidjee lived in a home range with her mate Mulga, which overlaps with a large, fenced enclosure (1100ha) containing several species of endangered mammal, reintroduced to the landscape as part of a Rangelands Restoration Project managed by the WA Department of Parks and Wildlife. Both names come from two common trees found in the region of this study: mulga dominates the area, and gidgee trees occur on stony hills, being the favoured nest tree of eagles in this habitat.

On about 1st July 2013, Gidjee laid 2 eggs in one of her nests, located on a ridgeline overlooking a vast section of mulga plain and spinifex shrubland. She incubated them for 7 weeks, and by the middle of August, one healthy eaglet was growing rapidly on the nest, being fed a mix of rabbit, rare mammal, goanna and various birds (the other egg was infertile and failed to hatch). In October I had the privilege of photographing this family from a tree hide, and watched in delight as Gidjee landed on the nest carrying a rabbit, then fed it to her chick. This was the perfect example of eagles carrying on their normal lifestyle with no problems, despite the breeding female having a satellite transmitter mounted to her back. Sadly, Gidjee left her home range in May 2014 and subsequently died. Her memory lives on in this website, and in her beautiful daughter, who continues to wander the vast landscapes of the arid interior.

Kuyurnpa ('Kuyu')

is a beautiful young female who gets her name from a Martu word meaning little girl: 'kuyurnpa'. She was born in mid-August 2013 and fitted with a PTT at the age of 9 weeks. I watched her from a hide straight after attaching the PTT to ensure her behaviour was not affected by her new backpack, and was thrilled to see her develop for the final 2 weeks of her nestling period. On 5th November, she made her first remarkable flight - 200m from the nest to a nearby tree! Kuyu then moved short distances each day, relying on her parents for 5 months, until she became independent, and travelled a remarkable distance of over 15 000km, covering about a third of Western Australia! This is the first time such an exciting journey has ever been followed remotely via satellite. Keep track of this website for updates on her progress!


is Wallu's mate, a large female Wedge-tail. She landed to feed on the very first 'roo carcass we baited a trap with in June 2013, but was lucky enough to land outside the trap, and not get caught. Hence she does not have a PTT, so we are only able to find where she is if she and Wallu are together. Since June 2013 most sightings of Wurru have been on motion cameras placed in her territory, or of her and Wallu soaring together very high up. Hopefully in 2015 they are more successful in the breeding season and we will be able to get some closer looks at this beautiful bird tending chicks on a nest.


was Gidjee's mate, living at a territory that overlaps the fenced enclosure. Like all male eagles, he served his partner with an amazingly loyalty that epitomises trust and dedication, which helped Kuyurnpa to fledge successfully. However, in May 2014, Gidjee unexpectedly left, possibly being driven out by another female, who may well have taken Mulga for herself! We don't really know if Mulga is still around, but there is still one pair living at the fenced enclosure, and we assume that Mulga is still the male, based on plumage characteristics. This pair are one of very few eagles in Australia whose diet has returned largely to a pre-European one: that is, they eat more native bettongs and bandicoots than they do introduced rabbits. They can spot these prey animals from a favourite perch in a very tall gidgee tree, growing high up on the ridge overlooking the fenced enclosure. Here they watch the day-to-day progress of one of Australia's most inspiring fauna restoration programs, one that is seeing some of our most unique mammals return to their desert home.