Leila Jeffreys 'Prey' series was exhibited at Purdy Hicks London and Olsen Gallery Sydney. Each large scale photograph features a portrait of bird of prey

'Mulga' Black Breasted Buzzard

'Mulga' Black Breasted Buzzard


©Leila Jeffreys 2014
Photograph on archival fibre based cotton rag paper
112 x 89 cm, 44 x 35 inch (standard)

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Although the word ‘tough’ comes to mind when I think of Mulga, he was very shy when we first met. He was crouched low, looking over his shoulder surveying the surroundings, and totally ignoring me. It was a time of observation, with his carer Paul curious to see if he would relax and connect with me so I could take his portrait.

With time, however, Mulga became familiar with the strange photographic gear, his composure shifting from uncertain and distracted to suddenly very focused – on me! It’s an exhilarating feeling when a bird makes this transition, with silent communication as we studied each other. The intelligence of this bird was profound, and I was left wishing I could read his thoughts… or perhaps not, as I wonder if he was thinking how tasty I might be.

Mulga is eight years old and a bird that has found ways to solve complicated problems in order to survive – for instance, how to break open an emu egg when the shell is so strong it can’t be pierced with his beak. His solution is to find suitable rocks and hurl it onto the egg until it cracks open so he can treat himself to the yolk inside. So many animals use tools – humans really need to come up with a new way to feel special.

Buzzards are found mainly in the north and semi-arid or arid regions of Australia and are rarely seen in coastal areas. They are partially migratory in northern Australia and more sedentary in the south-east. Their movements are related to rainfall.

Trying to identify a Buzzard is a little easier than other birds of prey because, in flight, they have what is known as ‘white windows’ under their wings which are bright white feathers.