It’s an unusual but beautiful bond. Chicken the Wedge-tailed Eagle came to the Australian Wildlife Health Centre at Healesville Sanctuary in October after trying to enter a local lady’s house through her back door. “He couldn’t fly and weighed just 2.4 kilograms, which is quite skinny,” Healesville Sanctuary’s veterinary nurse, Emmajane Newton said.
“We started to fatten him up but he would eat for some of us and refuse to eat for others. We soon realised he was not a wild eagle at all. He has a very strong bond with me.”
There are a number of bird species known to form long term, strong pair bonds that could be defined as mating for life. “Wedge-tailed Eagles pair for life and Jess and Magra, who fly in our Spirits of the Sky presentation, have bonded with their keepers - it’s a relationship built on mutual trust,” Emmajane explained. “I think Chicken is trying to flirt with me! But he doesn’t have to: I already love him. “
“We took Chicken out to a park oval just before Christmas on a long line to assess his flying and temperament. He flew well, because he’d put on some weight, but he was not acting wild – he didn’t try to fly off, in fact, he was approachable and happy to be picked up.”
“He has settled in with us and talks to me when I come in to see him each morning. He eats well when I’m with him and he’s happy to be held. He seems to trust me. I understand him and know his moods. I love spending time with him - he is a magnificent bird and has such a great character.
Chicken hurt his wing when he flew into the side of his enclosure after being bombed by wild Wedge-tailed Eagles.
Chicken is destined for Taronga Zoo when his damaged wing has healed. “It will be such a sad day for me to see him go to his new home but a happy day at the same time. He needs to be with someone that will have lots of time for him which will enrich his life. I know he will learn quickly and enjoy working closely with his new keeper once he has gained their trust.”
Healesville Sanctuary free flies Wedge-tailed Eagles in its Spirits of the Sky presentations every day at 12 and 2.30pm. Kids get free entry in the school holidays. For more information, head to the school holiday page.