White-bellied Sea-Eagles in the Wanngal Woodland Newington Nature Reserve

Geoff Hutchinson
Birds Australia

There has been a Sea-Eagle nest in the woodland for many years, with a succession of eagle pairs renovating the nest in the breeding season. Historic observations go back to at least 1991. The early records are incomplete, but eagles have been observed in the woodland or fishing along the Parramatta River for many years. Both juvenile and adult Sea-Eagles have been seen in the area, but there are no early records of successful breeding. Sadly over the years, several eagles have been found dead.
The first recorded young in the nest was in 2003, when a juvenile was photographed on the nest. That bird fledged, and left the area.
In 2004, a pair built a nest in a Grey Mangrove tree on the banks of the Parramatta River– their favourite day-time place. They in fact built a second nest there, as their first was unstable. The female was sitting on eggs, which were expected to hatch soon, when she sadly died. The male was found dead nearby. Tests were conducted and it was probable that both died from the same unknown cause.
In the years following, eagles were reported, but not nesting, until 2008, when our current female nested successfully. Nest renovation and egg laying was observed and photographed from a hide nearby. We first recorded a chick in mid August and we were thrilled when it flew towards the end of October. It was found injured shortly after and taken into care, where it sadly died. The original male from this breeding was seen injured and disappeared earlier whilst the chick was still in the nest. However, there are Sea-Eagles passing, waiting for the opportunity to claim a mate or a territory, and a young adult male took on the parenting role until the chick fledged. Just after the chick fledged, the current male moved in and took up residence with our female.

In 2009, the current pair began nest renovation again and we installed our first camera. We were able to record nesting behaviour until that camera stopped working. Observations continued from the hide and from cameras on the ground. There were 2 chicks hatched, though one died early. The stronger eaglet grew to leave the nest, fledging in mid October. Again, it left the area later and we could not follow its progress.
In 2010, when nest renovation began again, we installed new cameras and were able for the first time to record behaviour at the nest for the whole breeding season. Two eggs hatched and both were reared successfully, taking their first flights in October. Both left the area in February 2011 and again, we cannot follow their progress.

Then in February 2011, the whole branch with the nest fell to the ground. We continued observations and recorded a new nest started in the same tree in May 2011. Cameras were installed again, with infra-red to allow filming at night and we continue to record their breeding behaviour. Eggs were laid in the beginning of July, a few days apart and the first chick hatched on Sunday 14 August, followed by the second the next day.





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