Gabrielle of Healesville


Wedge-tailed Eagle

Healesville Sanctuary, Victoria, Australia


April, 29 2014 Russell wrote: 

This Wedge-tailed Eagle was the star of the "flight show" at Healesville Sanctuary, in Victoria in 1992. I believe her name was Gabrielle. I recall she was just a couple of years old in this photo. She was found as a chick playing with children in a city park in Melbourne. It seemed that someone had collected her from a nest and tried to make a pet of her but had let her go. 

I remember she was magnificent in the flight show and she really loved her handler, almost seen in the photo. I studied her combing his hair in her mighty bill and she was quite protective of him. 

This photograph was taken with my Pentax K1000 and Sigma, I think 70-250mm lens, with Kodachrome 200. I found this file on a Kodak Photo CD that was created on May 13, 1999. I found the CD recently but couldn't open the files until a remembered an old computer with and old version of photoshop. It worked well and opened an old chest of treasures for me. It's worth keeping our old computers.

This photo also reminds me of my first ever computer ($3000+ with 6 Gigabyte hard-drive and 128mb RAM) and first efforts with photo editing software. The first thing I wanted to do was edit the human out of the picture. Interesting after 22 years, I am happy to leave it as is. 

*I tried Googling Gabrielle to see where she ended up but found nothing. I also emailed Healesville Sanctuary but didn't get a reply. If you know more about this eagle, I'd be most grateful to learn. Thank you. * PLEASE SEE UPDATE BELOW.

(Also my book "Big Eagles Japan" is now available at Russell's Eagle Book at Amazon)

May 1, 2014: UPDATE:

Thank you to everyone who has visited and commented on this post. I'm very grateful to Healesville Sanctuary for replying to my recent email and confirming that the eagle's name was "Gabrielle".

Gabrielle was transferred from Healesville Sanctuary to Taronga Zoo where she passed away peacefully of natural causes. 

I'm sure that in her time at both sanctuaries, she inspired many crowds to look up for eagles in their daily lives. I can imagine the "Oohs" and "Aahs" and amazed faces privileged to see her and her wild kin. 

Thank you also to Jenelle for feedback which gave me good advice and led me to sending another email. I think my first one was to a wrong address.

For anyone interested in visiting Healesville Sanctuary, I recommend it and you can check out their webpage: Healesville Sanctuary

NEW (UPDATED May 6, 2014):

I received the following email, on May 2, 2014, from Brendan of Taronga Zoo:

Hi Russell,

I just read your blog after having your email forwarded to me this afternoon. Great stuff!

Since you’ve updated your April blog I see you’ve been given the correct information that Gabby was transferred to Taronga Zoo a number of years ago, and then did sadly pass away. I had the extreme pleasure of working with Gabrielle, along with the rest of our team for a number of years. Gabrielle flew in our 12PM Bird Show and was by far a highlight.

Seeing your photo from 1992 and reading your blog I have found to be very touching. It fills me with pride to think of how Gabrielle, and the other animals we work with, have the ability to touch the lives of so many.

If you have any specific questions please do not hesitate to contact me to ask.


Brendan Mark Host
Bird Show Keeper

Thank you, Brendan and Taronga Zoo.

NEW May 12, Update:

Brendan kindly replied to some of my questions about Gabrielle:

Hi Russell,


Regarding your first question, Gabby sadly passed away in 2008 at approximately 20 years of age. Gabrielle arrived at Taronga in 2006, and flew in our show for just under two years. We thought very highly of her.

Regarding where she was found, to the best of our knowledge she was found in a park in Melbourne, at least this was the information passed onto us. She was thought to be 3-4 years of age when she was rescued. This was only a guess as she appeared to be young, but not first year. It was reasoned that she may have been a rehabbed bird that proved unsuccessful.

I know what you mean. I feel very privileged to work so closely to these birds, and value the relationships myself and my teammates get to build with them. It is very humbling. We are currently training some other eagles we hope to introduce to the show later in the year.


Brendan Mark Host
Bird Show Keeper

Many Thanks, Brendan!