The power and sheer scale of Healesville Sanctuary icon Magra, the Wedge-Tailed Eagle, can now be seen fully by visitors.
Magra now begins her star turn in the Sanctuary’s Spirits of the Sky bird presentation with a low swoop over the crowd, showing off her two-metre wingspan.
This new behaviour was developed during the Covid-19 lockdown to allow Magra to use her natural hunting behaviours.
Healesville Sanctuary bird keeper James Goodridge said the twice-daily presentation was treated as hunting time for Magra.
“Magra is a top-order predator, and she’s totally focussed on finding her prey. If we show her there’s food, she’ll go after it immediately,” Mr Goodridge said. “She doesn’t pay any attention to the people at all, and to her they may as well not be there,” he said.
Keepers take advantage of this natural behaviour to place the audience in areas where they can get unique views of this awe-inspiring sight.
“We build the bird show around what the birds want to do, rather than the other way around,” explained Mr Goodridge. “Magra’s always going to do exactly what she wants to do, and there’s no arguing with her.”
Magra is shown food, such as chicken or mice, for a limited time to stimulate her hunting instincts.
“It’s really good for Magra to have this daily challenge, both mentally and physically. Taking off and landing burns a lot of energy for eagles, so it’s almost like interval training for her,” said Mr Goodridge.
“She loves learning new things. She’s a really intelligent bird, so she takes to new problems really quickly.”
Zoo members and visitors are reminded that all tickets to the Zoo must be pre-booked at zoo.org.au and asked to follow the current COVIDSafe directions at www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus