Rebirth of the Eagle aka False Load of Crap

The Rebirth of the Eagle PowerPoint is the latest "wondrous" bird thing hitting email inboxes. Not since the movie Caracara have I been so blown away with such blatant lies being made about an animal's natural history. The Caracara movie was where the lead actress was a falconer who had a rare bird to hunt with...a caracara...which looked remarkably like a Harris hawk...that she kept in a parrot cage...and would let loose to hunt from her Manhattan high night...

But I digress!

I'm not sure where this PowerPoint originated, there's not much up on Snopes yet (the urban legend debunking website) but I'm sure it's a matter of time until it is there. From what I'm able to gather, this was a presentation given at a church about change and rebirth, but somehow has made its way onto the web and people are passing this info off as true. Don't believe me, The Raptor Center has been getting emails asking if it's a true story. The worst part is that some "religious" sites have put it up and when people comment that the information is wrong, incorrect, inaccurate, a load of bull, etc. The web operators reply with "well, you're not an eagle expert, so we can't trust your info." Grrrrrrrrrrr. So, I'm going to post it here with the notes as to why it's wrong and links to where it's appropriate.

Let's assume they are talking about bald eagles and not golden eagles or any other eagle species.

Okay, I can find NO records of a bald eagle living to be 70 years old. According to the Bird Banding Lab, the oldest bald eagle documented in the wild was 30 years old and 9 months. I've tried to look up the oldest bald eagle in captivity, but I can find records of eagles living 21 - 47 years. I can say at The Raptor Center, we have an education bald eagle that was admitted as a first year bird in 1983.

And, the only decisions a bald eagle needs to make are: Can I kill and or eat that? Can I mate with or drive that out of my territory? I wonder if that tree would make a good nest? I wonder how many eggs we should try to hatch this year?

I've yet to meet any eagle, hawk, owl or falcon that has "flexible talons". The talons are always hard and they are always curved.

Whoa! Hey! What's that, we were talking bald eagles and now all of a sudden this is a golden eagle? You can't just switch species like that? Yes, that is a golden, not an immature bald eagle--note the golden hackle feathers (feathers on the back of the head and neck) and for the record, this process doesn't happen with any eagle species or ANY real life bird. Anyway, it reads that "Its' long and sharp beak becomes curved." Um...has ANYONE EVER seen an eagle with a straight and pointy beak like you would see on a heron?? NO! Eagles are raptors, two of the characteristics that make a raptor are sharp, curved talons and a strong curved beak.

Oh, hey, look at that, we're back to a bald eagle again. The only time birds feathers get stuck to their chest is when the bird has been involved in an oil spill. They molt out old feathers every year and grow in new ones. Honest, birds get new feathers every year.

No. This doesn't happen and they don't have to make that decision. Apart from molting into adult plumage, eagles do not go through a process of change. And they don't have a choice, they attain adult plumage in five to seven years if they want to or not.

Oh! Another golden eagle again. The only time eagles sit in their nests is to incubate eggs, brood young, or just do some remodeling. It's not someplace they hang out when there is nothing else better to do or if they have to go through some sort of fictitious change.

Let's just deal with the logistics of that sentence. The eagle is knocking its beak against a rock but it still manages to "pluck it out". If a bird did this, it would die. It wouldn't be able to tear and rip its meat in order to swallow it. Eagles and other birds will rub their beak against a hard surface to help wear it down. Like our fingernails, eagle beaks are constantly growing. Sometimes the vets at The Raptor Center have to trim beaks because they can get too long.

Again, this is not a survivable injury (unless the bird is force fed by wildlife rehabbers). If it waits for a missing beak to grow back, it will starve to death. Why am I justifying this, they don't pluck it out to begin with! Arrrrgh. An eagle's talons are the same, they are like our finger nails--they are constantly growing, they do not need to be plucked out.

No, eagles do not pluck out their old feathers. They go through a natural molting process. Did we go through this already?

An eagle that has not been hunting and eating for five months is a dead eagle and certainly not capable of living for another 30 years.

And you may have gone through this with me and thought, "Seriously, Sharon, did you really need to post this and explain that it's not true." Yes. People are forwarding this and asking, "This isn't true is it?" Here's a link to a blog with just the text and the blog writer seems to think this true. Sheesh.

Now, I'm all for taking some artistic license for a good story but this is just bad. It makes me mad when someone has to make up BS about an animal when their natural history and facts are cool enough on their own.

*UPDATE: Snopes does have an entry up now. I first heard about this at The Raptor Center on Tuesday and the woman who wrote the response from TRC on Snopes showed me the letter. I had no idea at the time that it was going on Snopes.