The Little Eagles return to Ginninderra for spring breeding
After travelling over 2500km since January, our satellite tagged male Little Eagle (Hieraaetus morphnoides) has recently returned to Ginninderra for the breeding season. Our tagged female was less adventurous, travelling only 17km and making the most of the prey around Fyshwick.
Jacqui Stol, Senior Experimental Scientist with CSIRO Land and Water, provided us with all the details about the Little Eagles movements since our last update in November 2021.
Travels of the Little Eagles from November 2021 – August 2022
The entire family of raptors at Ginninderra were successfully satellite tagged starting with the Ginninderra female known as V4 on 26 August 2019, the Ginninderra male known as Y4 on 28 January 2021 and the fledgling known as V6 also in January 2021. Unfortunately V6 died in autumn 2021 in western Queensland during a seasonal migration. The operational life of a satellite tracker averages 3 years, so we’re really pleased that our trackers are still in place and working.
In November 2021 the Ginninderra female and male moved into their old nest location in a conservation area near the Ginninderra shearing shed. This breeding event was unsuccessful and they moved into another conservation area in the north west of Ginninderra where they successfully hatched an egg but unfortunately the chick died. The wet, stormy and windy conditions over the breeding season are likely to be the cause as the young birds are vulnerable to poor weather and adults are limited in the amount of prey they can catch.
A second pair of Little Eagles have taken up residence and built a nest near the old police precinct area on Ginninderra East. The male, known as Z4 Pegasus, is also satellite tagged. It normally resides in West Belconnen near the Pegasus Farm Riding for the Disabled. The pair hatched an egg, but the chick died during the violent Murrumbateman / West Belconnen storm in January.
In late January, both the Ginninderra eagles left their breeding territory to fly to their regular autumn / winter locations – Fyshwick for the female (V4) and around Daly Waters in the Northern Territory for the male (Y4). This happened earlier than normal, perhaps because of the unsuccessful breeding attempt. The male travelled 2500km over two weeks. The female only travelled 17km which aligns with previous behaviour.
The Pegasus male (Z4) headed off more around the usual time in late March to Bourke in western NSW, before heading on to the gulf area east of Normanton in northern Queensland. He travelled 2000km and ended up spending the season only 45km or so from another tagged female Little Eagle from Tuggeranong known as Y2. He’s currently in Queensland on his journey back to the ACT. It’ll be interesting to see where he ends up when he gets back given that he nested in Ginninderra last season. Maybe he’ll try Ginninderra again this spring.
In August 2022, the Ginninderra male (Y4) and female (V4) eagles returned home safely from their migration. After spending a few weeks bonding, the eagles rebuilt their nest and laid an egg but the nest and egg were unfortunately destroyed in a storm. They have now moved on to Black Mountain.
Smoke haze research by the Little Eagle Research Group
Meanwhile, our Little Eagle Research Group have been analysing whether the severe smoke haze from bushfires in late 2019 / early 2020 impacted the Little Eagles’ movements. There have been few empirical studies of the sensitivity of birds to the effect of air pollutants, so it’s an exciting opportunity. So far the analysis indicates that there was some impact on the eagles’ activity. Stay tuned for further updates.
About the Little Eagle Research Group
The Little Eagle Research Group is a collaborative study group whose members are Jacqui Stol and Micah Davis (CSIRO Land and Water, Black Mountain), Renee Brawata and Claire Wimpenny (Conservation Research Unit, ACT Government), David Roberts (Ginninderry Joint Venture), Stuart Rae and Penny Olsen (Research School of Biology, Australian National University), Stephen Debus (University of New England) and Don Fletcher.
The overall aim of the study group is to determine the population ecology of the Little Eagle in the ACT and nearby NSW. There is a particular interest in rural areas such as Ginninderra and Ginninderry to ensure that any potential land use change minimises any potential impacts on our Little Eagle residents. The main aspects that this study has focused on are the Little Eagle population status, breeding success, diet, and dispersion locally and nationally. Such information helps assess the main habitats used, foods eaten, and productivity, which is necessary for guidance of any conservation of a species.
In March 2022 the team was invited to join the Global Raptor Collaboration (GRC). The GRC is closely collaborating with the global raptor research community to tackle conservation challenges through data sharing.