19 March 2019
A successful rabbit cull two decades ago has had unforeseen consequences, with a study finding wedge-tailed eagles are now preying on one of Australia’s rarest birds.
The University of Queensland research found that more native species, including the critically-endangered plains-wanderer, were now being taken by wedge-tailed eagles.
UQ School of Biological Sciences PhD candidate Graham Fulton said the change in diet occurred when a radical approach was taken to reduce out-of-control rabbit populations.
“The rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus or RHDV – a virus that only harms rabbits – was introduced into western New South Wales in 1996 and 1997,” he said.
“In terms of reducing rabbit numbers, it was hugely successful, in some areas killing up to 90 per cent of rabbit populations.
“What was probably not recognised at the time, was that rabbits were between 56 and 69 per cent of the wedge-tailed eagle’s diet, so after the cull their diet had to change.