Competition at the kangaroo carcass


Following the road kill death of a kangaroo in the Pilbara, Terrestrial Ecosystems staff dragged the carcass into nearby scrub and placed 2 camera traps nearby. The images captured over the next 2 days were quite astonishing and made for some impressive viewing. It was also interesting to witness the time at which animals fed and the systematic approach taken by different species to dissect and devour the carrion.

First on the scene just prior to sunrise was the Wedge-tailed Eagle (Aquila audax), who fed for just over an hour and at one stage was accompanied by a second ‘Wedgie’.  Shortly after their departure, a White-bellied Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster), spent half an hour getting it’s fill.  At 10am the following morning a different Sea Eagle arrived to enjoy the meal on offer. In the same sequence of five shots you could observe the Sea Eagle departing and a Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus) flying in to take post on the carcass.  Almost like a plane waiting for a runway to clear the Whistling Kite didn’t waste any time seizing the opportunity to fill its stomach.

There is a seemingly ever present murder of Crows that picks at the bones whenever a bird of prey is not present.

The most impressive sequence of events occurred half an hour later and shows the power struggle between a White-bellied Sea Eagle and a Wedge-tailed Eagle. After a quick show of force the White-bellied Sea Eagle proved more intimidating and continued to feast while the more subdued Wedge-tailed Eagle looked on and eventually fled the scene. These events took place at 11:05am when the temperature was a staggering 49°C.

The Sea Eagle continued to feast for another half an hour when the temperature had climbed further to 52°C. The afternoon prior to these events this same Sea Eagle fed for roughly 15 minutes when the temperature was 54°C. It was also interesting to note that not one mammal (i.e. wild dog, dingo or cat) was captured taking advantage of the free meal.

The head and tail of the kangaroo were quickly consumed and it took the larger stronger Eagles to peel back the skin from the neck to expose the ribs and guts. Without these apex predators and their strength it would be extremely difficult for the smaller animals to access the torso and effectively devour the entire animal. In a little over two days the carcass was no more than skin and bone with a constant thick moving black mass of flies.

Life for animals in this part of the world is harsh, unforgiving and the struggle for food is ever present.

Enjoy your jerky,

Tim McCabe


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