"The Wedge-Tailed Eagle" is a short story by Geoffrey Dutton, which gave its name to a collection of short stories. The story itself follows two pilots as they encounter the eagle in their travels. One pilot says to the other,
“It always beats me why you call them eaglehawks," said one of the pilots. "The wedge-tailed eagle is the biggest eagle in the world. You ought to pay him more respect, the most magnificent, majestic bird there is."
As the other pilot watches the eagle, he becomes increasingly impressed:
The pilot was astonished to find that he was being out-climbed without the bird even moving a feather of its wings. On the hot, unseen currents it swung lazily round and round, its motionless wings always above the quivering, roaring aircraft. To make things worse, the pilot, in order to climb as quickly as possible, had to move in a straight line and then turn back, whereas the eagle sailed up in a close spiral. His hand pushed harder on the small knob of the throttle already wide open against the stop. Perhaps the battle would come to no more than this, the noisy pursuit of an enemy who could never be reached.
The two pilots fly in a coordinated fashion so as to out-do the bird, but they narrowly miss him with each attempt. All they manage to do is startle the eagle:
For the first time a fraction of dignity had been lost: momentarily the great wings had been disturbed a little from their full stretch. It had been startled into a quick defensive action.
Eventually, the two pilots defeat the eagle, causing his right wing to break. This causes the eagle to fall to the ground to his death. The narrator describes how the pilots studiously and ceremoniously regard the eagle as follows:
The two of them stood in silence. The moment of skill and danger was past, and the dead body before them proclaimed their victory. Frowning with the glare of the sun and the misery of their achievement they both looked down at the piteous, one-winged eagle. Not a mark of blood was on it, the beak glistening and uncrushed, the ribbed feet and talons clenched together.
The pilots then pile rocks upon the eagle as a sort of make-shift burial, and they are chastened for their competition and humbled by the eagle’s majesty, even in death.