A little eagle's remarkable migration from Canberra to the Northern Territory

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Canberra Times APRIL 27 2017

With a GPS tracker strapped on its back one of the ACT's rarest birds of prey has been shown to migrate from Canberra to the Northern Territory.

The study used tracked a little eagle, a threatened species in the ACT and a quarter of the size of a wedge-tailed eagle.

A Little Eagle munching on a parrot.
A Little Eagle munching on a parrot. Photo: ACT Environment Directorate

The little eagle's flight path stretched 3,300 kilometres and took it to Daly Waters in the Northern Territory. The distance was travelled in a three-week period.

The migration was documented as part of a combined ecological research study undertaken by the ACT government, University of Canberra, CSIRO and Ginninderry Joint Venture.

A little eagle has made a 3300km journey from Canberra to the Northern Territory.
A little eagle has made a 3300km journey from Canberra to the Northern Territory. Photo: Geoffrey Dabb

The male bird travelled 1800 kilometres in the first eight days, and during its journey reached speed of up to 55 kilometres per hour.

The images used by the research team to follow the journey illustrate where the male bird chose to roost.

Minister for the Environment Mick Gentleman said the little eagle which was tracked was part of a Belconnen pair that had successfully raised a chick in the spring and early summer period.

"The little eagle was suspected of migrating between breeding and wintering territories. This study provides the first proof of this and a clear indication of the vast distances involved," Mr Gentleman said.

The minister was fascinated to learn more about the habits of this bird of prey and said findings from the research would guide future management plans and inform development plans in the ACT.

"During the nesting season, the male is thought to have hunted mainly juvenile rabbits and middle sized birds such as magpies, rosellas and starlings over an area of 65 square kilometres, ranging from the junction of the Molonglo and Murrumbidgee rivers north-east to the CSIRO land along the Barton Highway and north to Wallaroo in NSW."

The GPS track of a little eagle's 3300km journey from Canberra to the Northern Territory. Red dots denote overnight roosts.
The GPS track of a little eagle's 3300km journey from Canberra to the Northern Territory. Red dots denote overnight roosts. Photo: Geoffrey Dabb

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR MAY 1 2017

It is good that findings of a study of the little eagle will guide future management and development plans in the ACT (CT, "Now, little eagle flies into charted territory", April 27, p22). Does this mean that Stage8 of the Ginninderry Development, which will destroy the eagle's nesting tree, will be cancelled, or that a ludicrous 100-metre buffer zone will be left around it? If I were the eagle, I would not bother returning to the ACT after this destruction or intrusion on privacy.

Dave Kelly, Aranda

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