In my book ‘Emily’, the concept of ‘Green Coastal Wildlife Park’, was a perfect way of high-lighting environmental issues and subtly bringing awareness that love is an important aspect when it comes to our natural environment. This extends to respecting and embracing our natural flora and fauna that we need to protect.
Our wildlife depends on us to maintaining the health of the environment, and the balance of all this is important to all our futures.
The White-Bellied Sea Eagle also known as the White Breasted Sea Eagle.(Haliaeetus leucogaster)
They are protected by law
- The female is slightly larger than the male, and can measure up to 90 cm long with a wingspan of up to 2.2 m and weigh 4.5 kg.
- The call is a loud goose-like honking, especially during the breeding season.
- A young white bellied sea eagle in its first year is predominately brown. This brown colour then starts to diminish by gradually being infiltrated with white until in reaches adulthood by the 4th or 5th year.
- This species breeds from around the 6th year onward.
- Their life span is around 30 years.
Their Home and Nest
- The nest is their castle, signifying power, authority. It clearly marks their chosen territory, in other words, they are politely making it clear, ‘keep away from my property, house and family!’
- They usually choose tall trees, often used as a perch to survey the surrounding area, near water with some forest cover. It is here where they build their nest, usually sited in the fork of large trees (mostly in sheltered eucalyptus trees), overlooking bodies of water.
- Cliffs are also suitable nesting sites.
- The nest is a large deep bowl constructed of sticks, branches and lined with materials like grass, green leaves (believed to be for hygiene purposes) or seaweed.
- Yearly renovations result in nest getting gradually bigger, old nests can become enormous, some measure up to 4.5 m (14 feet) deep and 1.5 m (8 feet) wide. Now that’s pretty big!
- A breeding pair knows their own roles to partake through the process, the male becomes more active, having fun by spending 3 to 6 weeks building or renovating the nest before his mate starts to lay her eggs.
- Normally two eggs are laid and they are incubated over 6 weeks before hatching.
- Initially the male brings food and the female feeds the chicks, both parents feed the chicks as they grow larger.
- Hatching is 40 to 44 days and nestling 65 to 70 days. It has been recorded that fledglings are fed for about 3 months, after this, they can remain around the parents’ territory for up to 6 months or until the following breeding season.
Diet (Feeding is carnivorous)
- They usually hunt and consume a wide variety of animal prey, mainly aquatic animals, such as; fish, eels, porcupine fish (deadly to humans), water rats, turtles and sea snakes. Other animals they are know to eat, is the blue tongue lizard, and some birds.
- Eagles often catch a fish by flying low over the water and grasping it in its talons. On sunny days it flies directly into the sun or at right angles to it, so it doesn’t cast a shadow over the water and so, sneak up on its prey.
- They are skilled hunter’s, and if they are desperate for food, they can attack prey up to the size of a swan, and even eat sea gulls.
- They also feed on carrion such as dead sheep, birds and fish found along the waterline.
Much of the white-bellied sea eagle’s behaviour, particularly breeding, is not well known.
- Nests are a territorial marker and it is used for breeding, feeding, protecting the family, protection from any intruder(s), a sleeping and surveillance platform.
- Eagles have one mate for life, however if one dies it quickly seeks a new mate.
- Courtship is for life and it increases during the spring.
- Eagles are often seen perched high in a tree, or soaring over waterways and adjacent land.
- Eagle’s like to breed and hunts near water, because their main diet consists of fish.
- The male’s honking call is higher-pitched, more rapid and is among the loudest and furthest –carrying of all the Australian bird calls.
- Some nest sites are continuously occupied for many years, (e.g. 50 yrs).
- They are found in higher numbers where there is little or no human impact or interference.
- Estuaries are a favourable habitat.
- DDT was once a widely used pesticide in agriculture and was found to have a negative affect on wildlife, particularly egg thinning and subsequent breakage.
The eagle is revered by indigenous people in many parts of Australia, and is the subject of various folk tales throughout Australia.
The white bellied sea eagle was and is important to different tribes of indigenous people across Australia.
Examples from Wikipedia:
- The guardian animal of the Wreck Bay aboriginal community, it is also the official emblem of the Booderee National Park, and
- Botanic Gardens in the Jervis Bay Territory.
- A local Sydney name was gulbi, and the bird was the totem of Colebee, the late 18th Century indigenous leader of the Cadigal people.
- The Mak Mak people of the floodplains to the SW of Darwin in Northern Territory, who recognise its connection with ‘good country’. It is their totem and integrally connected to their land..
- The Umbrawarra George Nature Park was a Dreaming site of the bird, in this area known as Kuna-ngarrk-ngarrk.
- It was symbolic to the Tasmanian indigenous people – Nairanaa was the name used there.
- Known as Manulab to the people of Nissan Island, the bird is considered special and killing is forbidden. Its calls at night and it is said to foretell danger, and seeing a group of calling eagles flying overhead is a sign that someone has died.
- Local Malay folk talk tales tell of the bird screaming to warn the shellfish of the turning tides, and a local name burung hama siput translates as ‘salave of the shellfish’.
- Maharashtra coast, their name is kakan and its call is said to indicate the presence of fish in the sea.
Love our environment and look after it, let us keep our footprints as light as possible in this planet we call home.
Another reason why I have written ‘Emily’, and placed the characters, in an Australian beach/bush setting, was to bring notice to the beauty of the nature that surrounds us all, to love nature is to care for it, even in the simple things we all do everyday. Like reducing chemicals on our garden and changing our washing powder, all these small actions when we get together is a huge action towards a better environment and that in turn protects our own health, everyone around us, our pets and native animals. Margaret Ann Loveday
References: (BirdLife International 2005e; del Hoyp et al.1994 / Oslen, P. 1995 / Marchant & Higgins 1993 / Clunie 1994 ) / National Parks and Wildlife / Wikipedia)