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

'Soren' Wedge-Tailed Eagle

'Soren' Wedge-Tailed Eagle


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

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With a wingspan of up to 2.2 metres, Wedgies are Australia’s largest bird of prey, and very commanding creatures. My initial meeting with Soren was an intimidating experience: during our first photo shoot, he got up to fly, the gust of wind produced by his wingbeat almost bowling me over. As I spent time with him over a year, however, I discovered that he’s a gentle giant with a comical swagger and bounce when he walks.

Soren is looked after by Paul Mander from Broadwings Raptor Training and Conservation Centre near the Gold Coast. He has a very important job, used as part of a conservation program to deter other bird species from destroying property and kicking their sugar addiction (which comes from raiding sugar packets left on balconies in hotels – it is very hard for their little livers to process). The loveable Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo is a common offender.

Soren’s job is to approach the flock of Cockies, a camera attached to his back; the clever thing never harms them, but just his presence is enough to deter them. Knowing such an intimidating predator is in town, the offending flock moves on.

Wedgies are only protected in two states in Australia and have been seriously persecuted through intentional trapping, shooting and poisoning for over 100 years. I think that’s another reason why meeting Soren was so special – I always fall for the underdog.

Farmers claim that Wedge-Tailed Eagles steal their livestock, but studies show that only 3% of a Wedgies’ diet is from livestock. Primarily, they live off carrion (decaying meat); and with no vultures to clean up the mess in Australia, the role of a Wedgie actually prevents the spread of disease. Fortunately, the younger farming generation is starting to learn more about these birds and appreciate the important environmental role they play.