EAGLES EVER PREY ON CHILDREN?
December 30, 2012
I saw a
recent YouTube video that went viral showing an eagle swooping down
from the skies and supposedly carrying off a small child in a playground
in Canada. I dismissed the video as a hoax, which it was. Many large
predators will eat a human as readily as any other prey item if they
think they can get away with it. Great white sharks, tigers and saltwater
crocodiles have dined on people for centuries. They still do. Reports
of pythons killing people are too frequent for comfort, and documented
records exist of their finishing up the killing with a human meal. Is
it possible a big bird might decide a small person would make a suitable
meal and then successfully carry out the plan?
of credible records are on hand that some of our largest avian predators,
such as great horned owls, golden eagles and red-tailed hawks, will
catch and carry off small pets. Without question, many unguarded puppies
and kittens have been the victim of predatory birds. For some small
dog breeds, including Manchester terriers, toy poodles and Chihuahuas
even a full-grown adult running around outside unattended would be an
ideal target. A pet rabbit hopping about in a backyard would be viewed
as fast-food by any passing eagle or large hawk. But young children?
Would a hawk, owl or eagle dare to try, even if they could pick a child
up and carry it away?
human attitudes that people are special and should be outside the menu
list of wild predators, most of them couldnt care less. We are
a package of edible protein. But todays birds would typically
do an instinctive cost-benefit analysis and not risk attacking a child
if an adult was nearby. In addition, birds of prey assess whether they
are likely to be able to subdue the prey upon attack and whether they
will be able to carry it away. An ambulatory child would ordinarily
fail to meet either criterion.
stories of aerial predators that can swoop down and carry off a small
human are a staple of myths, fairy tales and speculative fiction. And
once upon a time ... such a creature was real.
by paleontologists has confirmed that a now-extinct giant eagle lived
in New Zealand about the time Columbus was sailing the ocean blue, and
they may have preyed occasionally upon children and small adults
a chilling thought. Biological information about Haasts eagle,
as the predator is called, is based on skeletal material examined by
the scientists. As with modern birds of prey, females typically got
larger than males. A male Haasts eagle is estimated to have reached
a body weight of 27 pounds. The largest females were probably more than
40 pounds, which is huge for a flying bird. Ostriches, the largest birds
on earth today, are heavier, but they neither fly nor do they eat people.
To put the size of Haasts eagles in perspective, the largest bald
eagles are around three feet in body length, have an outstretched wingspan
of slightly under eight feet (which is right big in itself), but average
under 15 pounds in total weight. Thats pretty paltry compared
to 40 pounds. Haasts eagles are indisputably the largest eagles
known to science. Haasts eagles are gone now, but the thought
comes to mind that when the Maoris, the original settlers of New Zealand,
sent their children out to play it was always with the reminder to watch
for eagles, and run inside if you see one.
knowing that a bird twice the size of a bald eagle once existed is an
intriguing thought. But YouTube videos notwithstanding, no bird living
today can scoop up a human toddler in its talons and fly away. A small,
unattended pet? Maybe. But birds of prey are no threat to human children.
Based on the wealth of evidence we are provided on a daily basis, the
most dangerous animals that humans need to worry about are other humans.
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