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16 December 2008

wedgetaileagle-161208-250.jpgTaronga Zoo’s new Wedge-tailed Eagle, ‘Nonami’ will take to the air today to fly outside for the first time with her new trainers at Georges Heights Oval.

The impressive tawny-brown eagle, which weighs 3.8kg, is being trained to star in Taronga Zoo’s QBE Free Flight Bird Show where birds fly in an open air amphitheatre demonstrating their unique natural behaviours and physical features against the spectacular backdrop of Sydney Harbour.

Four year old Nonami was donated to the zoo earlier this year and has been practising flying outdoors everyday with the help of her trainers. Nonami began her initial training over eight months ago and was initially flown inside before her outdoor training.

Animal Presentation Unit Supervisor, Mathew Kettle, said: “Today is quite an achievement for Nonami. For four months she has been flying outside on a creance, which is a light cord that ensures she does not fly off whilst she gains confidence and develops a relationship with us.”

“Training a bird of prey is quite a challenging task. Unlike other birds we can not begin their outdoor lessons in the security of an aviary where we can control distractions and ensure that they don’t fly away. We slowly introduce them to the new outdoor environment and use positive reinforcement to build a trusting relationship. This ensures that the birds become comfortable with flying and responding to us.”

When Nonami is ready she will start free flying at the amphitheatre which is slightly more challenging with its sea breezes rising off the Harbour. It is hoped she will be able to fly from a substantial height, swooping down over the heads of the crowd to land on centre stage and display her massive two meter wings.

“I am sure Nonami will be very confident as she was previously used in schools to educate children and has even featured in a number of television commercials,” said Matthew.

Although Nonami still has a few more months of training ahead of her before her debut in the show, Taronga visitors can see another Wedge-tailed eagle, ‘Jack’ in the daily 12pm and 3pm shows.

The Wedge-tailed Eagle is Australia’s largest bird of prey and one of the largest eagles in the world. Females are larger than the males, usually weighing up to 4.2kg while the males’ weight peaks around 3.2 kg.

The Wedge-tailed Eagle is found throughout mainland Australia, Tasmania and southern New Guinea, from sea level to alpine regions in the mountains. It prefers wooded and forested land and open country, generally avoiding rainforest and coastal heaths. The Wedge-tailed Eagle is one the world’s most common large eagles, although in Tasmania it is thought to be endangered with less than 100 breeding pairs existing.

The drought conditions in Australia makes this bird more visible to people as they spend more time on the edge of roads searching for carrion. Raising young is usually put off until the environment is more suitable.

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