Fun Formidable fact about golden eagles: it is estimated that the talons of these birds can exert up to 750 pounds per square inch (5.2 MPa) of pressure when clasping at prey. That's about 15-times the pressure exerted by the grip of the average human hand. That fact alone is enough to make the above video — which purports to show a golden eagle swooping in on, snatching up, and trying to fly away with a hapless toddler — seem at least somewhat plausible. These things have been known to hunt goats, after all, and the footage in the clip looks pretty real, right?
We certainly thought so — at least at first glance. We wanted to believe. We really did (JUST THINK OF ALL THE HOBBIT REFERENCES). So did much of the rest of the internet. But now, roughly 15 hours after the video was first posted, authorities are starting to weigh in. The verdict? Not a real video. It's not even a golden eagle.
"There is a video making the rounds on YouTube and social media right now that seemingly shows a "Golden Eagle" swooping down to try and snatch a toddler," explains a post on the Ohio's Black Swamp Bird Observatory's Facebook page. "We want you to know that the video is a fake. This kind of publicity does so much damage to birds and we hope that if you see the video posted that you will inform people that it is not real."
Here's what conservationist and bird expert Kenn Kaufmann had to say about the video:
A golden eagle tries to snatch a baby in Montreal," and the video goes viral. But it's faked. Golden Eagle is a scarce visitor in the Montreal area, but the bird in the video is not a Golden Eagle, nor anything else that occurs in the wild in North America. This was clearly a setup: using a falconer's bird, and probably a fake toddler for the distant scene. With all the ignorance about nature that's out there already, the last thing we need is this kind of stupid garbage.
Over on YouTube, Cyatek has put together a short clip, featured here, highlighting mistakes in the video's CGI animation. Meanwhile, Tetrapod Zoology's Darren Naish has been pointing out potential problems with the bird's biomechanics all morning:
All this is to say: this video is a big fat phony! A pretty convincing phony, but a phony. Not that you should treat golden eagles — or any other birds of prey, for that matter — with any less respect. Anything capable of dishing out 5.2 megapascals of pressure (with a taloned-grip, no less) is, by definition, deserving of all the respects.