The eagle has taken flight on Pensioner’s Hill and it looks every bit like the real thing. But on closer inspection, people will find this 300kg bird of prey is built almost entirely from scrap metal.

The Gunnedah sculpture is the latest addition to the town’s western lookout – this one built by acclaimed metal artist Andrew Whitehead who serendipitously has become somewhat of a specialist in the eagle-making craft.

“This is the fifth eagle I’ve made of this size,” Mr Whitehead said.

Gunnedah’s wedge-tail eagle spans more than three metres across and constructed predominately using a combination of industrial mower blades from mowing contractors and shire councils.

Mr Whitehead, who hails from the Urana region in the Riverina, said the beauty of the creation is it also features everyday items familiar to many rural people from generations past.

“The wings tips are the crop lifters off a header, its claws are from the old days of bulk handling wheat bags and the toes are made from railway
split pins that hold the steel plates onto the sleepers,” he said.

“Other stuff is a variety of smaller mower blades, screens out of a header for the eagle’s light pin feathers, bearings and cogs for the neck and the beak is made from a minimal till tillage point.”

View from above: The new eagle sculpture on Pensioner’s Hill.

The eagle is mounted on a pivot to compensate for its anticipated high wind load. This became a primary focus given the sculpture’s exposed location.

“I was worried about this being a very windy spot and loads being placed on it, like a kite,” he said.

“So I used one of those cranes off a utility – it’s rated to 900kg – and I put that there as a swivel so if a gale does come up, it should turn into the wind like a tail on a windmill and be more aerodynamic.”

Mr Whitehead could not guarantee its life and say for certain the eagle will survive extreme wind forces but the pivot mechanism would give it a fighting chance.

He also adjusted the eagle’s pitch to further reduce the wind forces on the sculpture.

“I was originally going to have it rising up but then I thought it’s going to make it more of a sail to blow over backwards so I opted for a neutral, flat, horizontal flight path,” he said.

Commissioned by Gunnedah Urban Landcare Group (GULG), the sculpture was made possible with support of a $50,000 grant from the NSW government’s Stronger Country Communities Fund.

The grant also provided additional picnic and shade structures at the lookout.

Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson is expected to officially open the new sculpture next week.

GULG spokesperson Owen Hasler was thrilled to host Mr Whitehead in Gunnedah for the eagle’s installation.

“It has been an excellent outcome,” Mr Hasler said.

“From the work I’ve seen of his previously, and what we watched on Facebook as he created it, I think he has done an outstanding job.”

To order photos from this page click here