Australian researchers have been left surprised by a rare bird of prey that travelled more than 3,000 km from its natural habitat.
Michael Mulvaney, a senior ecologist at the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Environment and Planning Directorate, said a tracker was attached to the rare little eagle to assess the impact of local developments on the native species.
He told Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) radio on Friday that the bird was recorded travelling 3,300 km in less than three weeks to a small town in the Northern Territory (NT).
"We were surprised ... we weren't expecting our Canberra bird to go all the way to the Northern Territory, particularly as it's a breeding male which seems to have been breeding in the Canberra area since 2001," Mulvaney said.
"For it to just one day decide to head up north, that it's sick of the cold and to go that far was really surprising."
The eagle flew up to 500 km in a single day, reaching a top speed of 55 km per hour (kph).
Previous efforts to track little eagles outside the ACT had shown the bird traditionally flies much shorter distances.
Mulvaney said his team was astounded with the journey the little eagle, which is one quarter of the size of a wedge-tailed eagle and one of the smallest eagle species in the world.
The little eagle is considered a threatened species in both the ACT and New South Wales (NSW).
"In 1998, there were 13 pairs of the little eagles in the ACT, by 2011 we were down to one pair, so they're a bird we're trying to look after," Mulvaney said.
"Two of those breeding pairs are in areas that are close to new developments ... so we were trying to examine what development was going to do to the breeding pairs."