Almost every year, around the start of May, a pair of white-bellied sea eagles (also known as white-breasted sea eagles) return to Lennox Head for the breeding season. This year a third bird arrived, possibly part of the family group.
As the name suggests, they have a white belly. The upper wings are grey and from below black wing-tip feathers contrast with the white belly. Juveniles are mottled brown reaching full adult plumage after four years.
On just about any day through late autumn and winter you’ll hear their goose-like honking call while they’re soaring thermals above the Boat Channel, the Bream Hole, The Point or the Lake. If you’re lucky you might see one pluck a mullet or tailor from the ocean. They also eat smaller birds, mammals and reptiles if the opportunity arrives.
They are big birds, very big, standing almost a metre tall with a wingspan of two metres and they have a regal appearance. Top end predators are like that but they are listed as a vulnerable raptor. Habitat destruction, due to increased urbanisation, is limiting their territory and they will abandon nests if disturbed so stay well away from roosting pairs.
White-bellied sea eagles are the second largest bird of prey in Australia; only the wedge-tailed eagle is bigger (and we have a few of those too).
Wedge-tailed eagles, or wedgies, are not usually seen around the beachfront, though many years ago I saw one perched high on a tree branch at the end of Seven Mile Beach. More recently I saw one high on a thermal above town and another above the cane-fields up Newrybar Swamp Road. They are regarded as inland raptors but if you’re very, very lucky you can occasionally see them in the heath west of Lake Ainsworth.
If you thought white-bellied sea eagles were big, wedgies are even bigger. A full-grown bird can stand an imposing one metre tall with a wingspan of almost three metres and their colour range varies between reddish brown to dark brown; some even look black.
Like white-bellied sea eagles, a pair of wedgies will perform aerial acrobatics, gripping talons and plummeting in death-defying dives during courtship flights. They build huge nests and lay a pair of eggs. The female incubates them while the male hunts for food but, unlike the white-bellies, wedgies eat rabbits, roos, birds, carrion and road-kill. They’ve been known to take fox and small dogs too so keep your pooch on a lead if you’re wandering the heath country.
Landcare dates for July
Times are 8.30 to 10.30 am
Wed 3rd: Seven Mile Dunes, nth of surf club – Lake Ainsworth SE car park
Wed 10th: Boulder Beach – Coast Rd car park
Wed 17th: Seven Mile Dunes – opposite Williams St Kitchen & Bar
Wed 23th: Boulder Beach – Coast Rd car park
Thurs 1st Aug: Skennars Head – Iron Peg car park, Boulder Beach
For further info, visit lennoxheadlandcare.org, email
firstname.lastname@example.org, phone Shaun on 0448 221 210 or find us on Facebook ‘Lennox Head Landcare’.