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Old 26 January 2008, 11:58 AM
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sry.srsly. but I just couldn't resist
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Old 26 January 2008, 08:07 PM
Barns & No Bull
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Originally Posted by charlie23 View Post
While I pretty much agree with Barns & No Bull, the incident is certainly not without precedent in the history of UL's:

London Express, 1904: EAGLE CARRIES OFF CHILD

Baby Stolen by Eagle, 1888:

More Avian Abduction Legends
Very interesting! I've never seen a compilation of "eagle abductions" like this. I have seen a couple isolated accounts and they may have been some of these. I hope that my previous post is not misleading in a way that suggests I cannot accept any account of an eagle attacking and carrying away a very small child. I was going after that particular UL and its implausibility as it was told. I could have said much more about eagles and their potential to prey on very small children. It was just too easy to bitchslap that UL without going deeply into eagle physiology and behavior. At that point, the differences between Golden and Bald Eagles is meaningful especially in the context of proposed "eagle abductions".

It was seeing all of these assembled accounts that allowed me to get a feeling for what is going on with these killer eagles. What we have here is the coming-together of birds of prey, layperson victims and witnesses, cultures, and reporting style that all leads to a perfect storm. One does need a decent knowledge and sense of all of these factors to present a good analysis. The real truth is mostly something different than what these accounts present to the reader. Examining any individual account (without knowing there is a bunch of them) deprives one from getting the big picture that only comes from seeing all of them in one place. The author of the website says "on this 30th anniversary of the Lawndale incident, I am presenting my top 30 Avian Abductions from the past 100 years (in chronological order)". That suggests there are others but he decided to stop at 30 to celebrate Lawndale.

I would not say that any of these accounts are wholly fabricated and there was no violent interaction with a bird of prey at all. It's possible, but IMO none of these seem to be complete fiction. That cannot be said about the obviously bogus OP UL from Tyler, Texas.

Patterns emerge from the list.

Chronology: The list can be confusing because it is in chronological order of media report, not the incident itself. An attack in 1931 was reported in 1937, and so it is placed in the list as 1937. Most accounts would be considered relatively "old", and only two after 1936 make the list (1948 Carlsbad and 1977 Lawndale). More than one theory could explain this. But why does it seem that eagles have essentially "lost their taste for human flesh"?

Location: Nearly all linked accounts are from North America, with a few from Europe.

The Bird: Most accounts simply describe the attacker as an "eagle". Many are more specific and say "bald eagle". Only one specifically identifies the attacker as "golden eagle", and coincidentally it is the only account that mentions the involvement of a professional ornithologist doing the reporting.

The Victim and Injury: The accounts range from very young children to adults. The injuries vary in description and there are deaths as well. Deaths are strongly correlated with the young children, and also with being isolated from other people at the time of attack. Fatalities sometimes include eating the victim. All eating incidents involve carrying the victim away from the point of attack.

The Intent of the Bird: Nearly all accounts make the direct or implied suggestion that the bird intended to kill and eat the victim, whether they were successful or not.


The Bird: "Common Folk" are not strictly reliable in accurately identifying animals. This may be compounded in frightening and/or violent incidents. Exaggeration and fantastic elaboration are commonplace in these situations, and this is also true in non-frightening or non-violent observations. This may have been more common in "the old days" when people had less access to factual information related to accurately identifying animals, and there may have been the unfortunate reality of illiteracy even when such information could be available. But in many ways that has not changed at all in spite of already being into the 21st century.

A fox with mange is described as almost anything but that, and this happens over and over again. A mangy fox presents a very unusual and unique appearance. What the hell is that thing in my yard? Never seen anything like it before. The animal looks so unusual and unexpected that the witness may not imagine this is only a common animal with a terrible disease. Instead, it may be evaluated as a healthy animal of exotic origin or species. Maybe even a species that is "new to science". So we hear the mangy fox described as a hyena, kangaroo, muntjac or small deer, chupacabras, cat, dog, etc. But profound misidentifications occur even when the animal is not diseased. Brownish housecats are mountain lions. Black housecats are "black panthers". Lost tabby kittens are ocelots. Deer are coyotes or wolves. Feral dogs or coyotes are wolves. Vultures are eagles or condors. Eagles and condors are vultures. Hawks are eagles. Eagles are hawks. Golden eagles are bald eagles. Bald eagles are golden eagles.

I would expect that some of these "eagle attacks" were actually hawks. Some may not even be birds of prey at all. Birds described as bald eagles may have been golden eagles or hawks. Last year, my own mother called me to say she was nearly certain she had a huge eagle sitting in the tree next to her house. Her detailed description revealed that it was actually a Red-tailed hawk. Because she was able to get quite close to it, the hawk appeared enormous to her. But Mom sees Red-tails with regularity at a distance and knows what they are. Every single bit of her description (she saw the eye, foot and plumage colors perfectly) matched a young Red-tailed hawk. Leaves concealed the red underside of the tail - but I told her the bird has the red which she missed. The size seen up close just floored her. She even brought the dog inside. I felt bad having to tell her that it wasn't even a full grown Red-tail. It was hard to explain on the phone the size differences of a hawk vs an eagle. I used terms like "very much bigger", "huge, not just big", "way bigger than the hawks you commonly see", "twice as big", etc. It didn't work along those lines because to her it was already all of that. I tried giving her measurements in inches, but Mom has serious problems with estimating lengths and distances. To her, under these kinds of situations, 15" cannot be distinguished from 30". I gave her the two different heights and it still was an eagle to her. After 20 minutes of cross-examination using her own observations combined with my good bird knowledge I convinced her that she saw a juvenile Red-tailed hawk. She clearly saw yellow eyes and its piercing stare caused gut fear in her. She said the eye color and her reaction to it "triggered her mind towards an eagle". But it didn't have a white head (adult bald eagle), and so the yellow eyes ruled out any golden eagle and any bald eagle that wasn't adult. Her gut simply said eagle because it was "really big", can't see the tail, and had shocking yellow eyes. Her 105-pound Kuvasz was brought inside to prevent him from being killed and eaten out there on the lawn. The perfect storm of emotion and misidentification brought an eagle to a tree in her yard.

On this list, we even have an account of a killed "50-pound Mexican eagle" which is nonsensical in every possible way. No such bird exists, and if it did, it would need small aircraft-sized wings to fly at all. In actuality, it may have been a 4-pound Red-tailed hawk or some other bird of prey. Golden or bald eagles should not ever be expected to exceed about 15-pounds. The huge California Condor tops out at about 25-pounds.

I need a break from this for a while. More to come...

Last edited by Barns & No Bull; 26 January 2008 at 08:17 PM.
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Old 26 January 2008, 09:01 PM
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The Lawndale incident specifically has brought up some interesting discussions in cryptozoology forums, with some comparisons of sightings to Andean Condors and possibilities that some of those birds could be migrating North. Most of the descriptions in older cases resembled vultures or condors much more than eagles, but as you point out: in general, "big bird" = "eagle".
But back to the OP:
Having grown up in East Texas, very near to Tyler (Kilgore actually) I think that I can say that in the general populace there it wouldn't be a huge leap between "we saw a really big bird", and a case of bud light later "there was a ginormous eagle that tried to steal my baby". No offense to folks from East Texas, but ya'll know what I mean.
'course, I guess you just said that more or less

Last edited by charlie23; 26 January 2008 at 09:12 PM.
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Old 27 January 2008, 06:41 PM
Barns & No Bull
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The Bird: I have assembled some data and descriptions of North American eagle physiology and behavior as it would relate to these accounts.

Golden Eagle

A survey found that the average weight of adult males was 8.6 pounds, with a range of 7.8 - 9.7 pounds. Females averaged 10.3 pounds, with a range of 8.9 - 12.5 pounds. (Brown and Amadon 1968).

Wingspan generally ranges 6-7 feet, though some individuals can reach close to 8 feet (Snyder 1991).

70-90% of the diet consists of mammals which are mainly rabbits and rodents. An Idaho study found that Black-tailed Jackrabbits comprised 60% of the diet.

Golden eagles are the most formidable of all raptor species in North America. Records exist for them killing grown deer and pronghorn antelope, and are known to kill foxes and coyotes with some frequency. The list of documented prey for this species includes most of the medium to large mammals on the continent, though, to be sure, many of the largest prey taken have been animals incapacitated by injury or hobbled by deep snow. Many of the largest prey have also been attacked under conditions of dire food stress, when no other prey were available. Regardless, these eagles certainly take larger prey on average than do any other North American raptor (Snyder 1991).

Domestic lamb predation levels vary greatly depending on natural prey densities, availability of carrion, ranching practices, etc. Probably most lambs are killed by young eagles, and most are taken during declines in jackrabbit populations and cold periods when rodents are mostly inactive. Conspicuous scarecrows, harassment and increased human activities offer the best means to protect lambs from golden eagles (Brown and Watson 1964).

I found that the average birth weight of lambs is 5.95 pounds, with a range of 3.5 - 15.4 pounds.

Golden eagles hunt largely by soaring-searching techniques, and need either thermals or orographic winds (topography-related updrafts) to help then gain sufficient altitude to hunt and cover the large areas of their foraging ranges. Thus, the birds seek out areas with such updrafts, and avoid areas of downdrafts or dead air. They are unable to take off with any significant amount of prey, possibly even as little as 4.4 pounds, when they are in the center of such downdraft areas (Snow 1973). It is unlikely that even an adult eagle can normally take off with more than about 6.6 pounds, although an eagle has been observed in flight carrying a jackrabbit weighing more than 6.9 pounds (Kalmbach, Imler, and Arnold 1964). However, adult black-tailed jackrabbits average only about 5.06 pounds (Smith and Murphy 1973). Huey (1962) reported that an adult male eagle is apparently able to carry a load of only about 1.9 pounds easily, or less than 25% of its body weight, assuming an average male eagle weight of 8.8 pounds. Certainly the amount of wind and the opportunity to take off downslope must greatly influence carrying ability, and even eagles carrying small prey will use wind to assist in this.

Bald Eagle

A survey found that the average weight of adult males was 9.06 pounds, with females averaging 11.5 pounds (Snyder and Wiley 1976). Another survey that did not specify sex found that the range of adult weight was 4.4 - 13.6 pounds, with an average of 9.5 pounds (Clark and Wheeler 1987).

Wingspan generally ranges 5.5-7.3 feet, though some Alaskan individuals can reach over 8 feet (del Hoyo, Elliott, and Sargatal 1994).

Bald eagles favor fish (alive or dead) as their primary food. Depending on their availability, fish can constitute 14-100% of the diet. Mammals are preyed upon, and can constitute 0-36% of the diet with a relationship to the availability of fish. The most common mammal prey are rabbits, rats and sea otter pups. There is no evidence of mortality caused by bald eagles to lambs or ewes (Hancock 1964; Retfalvi 1965, 1970).

Sherrod, White and Williamson (1976) judged that the birds may be able to carry prey as large as baby sea otters (or about 4 pounds), at least for short distances, and once an adult Emperor Goose (which weigh an average of about 6.1 pounds) was observed to be killed and carried to a sea stack. Beebe (1974) stated that the birds are adept at capturing fish up to the size of a 6.6 pound salmon, but that the larger of these fish may be hauled ashore by alternated periods of towing or flying with the prey for short distances, interspersed with periods of resting half-submerged on the water.

More to come...
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