Unusual prey - Eagle takes horse

Subject: Unusual prey - Eagle takes horse
From: "Ian Temby"<>
Date: Mon, 15 Jun 1998 10:05:42 +1000

From: Ian  on 06/15/98 10:05 AM

cc:   Stephen 
Subject:  Unusual prey - Eagle takes horse

Although this event occurred in March this year, I thought it of sufficient
interest that I would report it to the list.  As many would know, Rabbit
Calicivirus has spread patchily through southern Australia, decimating some
rabbit populations, but leaving others unaffected.   Where rabbit numbers
have plunged, Wedge-tailed Eagles (Aquila audax), which feed mainly on
rabbits, must find other food sources, move elsewhere, or die.  Other foods
are limited, and I have received several reports of eagles taking lambs or
goat kids, in areas where rabbit numbers are reported to have declined.

Miniature horses are growing in popularity, but are rather expensive.  A
miniature horse breeder in central Victoria was horrified to see a 2 kg
foal, which she had already sold for more than $2,000, seized and carried
away by a Wedge-tailed Eagle.  The foal was very much alive and healthy
when taken.  Its half eaten carcass was found elsewhere on the property
later in the day.  As far as I am aware, this is the first record of a
horse being taken by a Wedge-tailed Eagle!

Last Friday, while cycling home after work with a colleague, I spotted a
Water Rat (Hydromys chrysogaster) tugging vigorously at something in the
water near the edge of the Merri Creek, some 50 metres from its confluence
with the Yarra River, 4 km from the centre of Melbourne.  Water Rats are
usually nocturnal, but this was broad daylight (about 1640 hrs).  As we
watched, I realised that the "prey" that the Water Rat was apparently
trying to pull towards the bank, was a dead Little Black Cormorant
(Phalacrocorax sulcirostris).  The Water Rat was about one third the size
of the bird , and it was unable to move the cormorant at all, even when
pulling it by the leg.  Water Rats are carnivorous, and this bird would
represent a bonanza for the mammal, but the cause of death of the bird was
not determined.  While eagles might take horses, I don't think a Water Rat
could catch and kill a cormorant!

There was no trace of the cormorant this morning as I passed on my way to




Ian Temby

Wildlife Damage Control Officer

Secretary/Treasurer, BIRDS Australia Parrot Association

Biodiversity Program

Department of Natural Resources and Environment

4/250 Victoria Parade


Phone          613 9412 4429
Fax       613 9412 4586

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