When Eagles Kill

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They were, the consensus went, neither as intelligent nor cultured as we are. Then, 5, years after modern humans arrived, the Neanderthals were gone. With only bones left to puzzle over, paleoanthropologists have arrived at a variety of interpretations of Neanderthal intelligence. More controversial are claims that they produced art or buried their dead. Many scientists still maintain that Neanderthals were incapable of symbolic thinking, typically relegated to human prowess alone. Raptor talons and bird bones collected from Neanderthal sites now point to intentional hunting of the powerful birds, likely for decorative and symbolic use—perhaps as religious totems, perhaps as icons of personal strength.

He says that the new evidence paints Neanderthals as smart, selective hunters, actively targeting raptors like Golden Eagles, scraping their wings for feathers, and harvesting their talons. They were doing so long before the first humans arrived in Europe. And all of that suggests a people who, like us, held the Golden Eagle in special esteem. But they were not devoid of these things. The ability—or perhaps the need—to imbue animals with meaning, and to try to embody their power, has long been seen as a quintessentially human trait; indeed the use of symbols has been tied to human intelligence.

As potent aerial hunters, eagles have long made for a particularly powerful symbol. Some Native American tribes still traditionally harvest their feathers for sacred ceremonies; the people of Rome regarded them as both Olympian messengers and emblems of imperial might a use Americans would recognize. More impressive, though, is that when the Finlaysons reviewed the bird remains from some Neanderthal sites, they found large-bodied raptors—largely Golden Eagles— at 75 or nearly half of those sites. This prevalence of eagles was particularly notable to Eugene Morin, an anthropologist at the University of Trent who was not involved in the study.

The Finlaysons argue that not only were Neanderthals targeting raptors, but that they particularly valued Golden Eagles, given their prevalence in the deposits. The eagle remains largely constituted wing bones and talons, which are far from the most appetizing parts of the bird. The wings showed signs of being scraped, perhaps to dislodge big primary feathers for decoration.

From ABC Gippsland

And then there were the eagle talons, which had been carefully detached from the toe bones—evidence of intentional butchery and polishing. By the time modern humans arrived in Europe 45, years ago, and before raptor remains begin turning up in their sites, Neanderthals had been capturing eagles and other large raptors for at least 85, years, Finlayson says. However it happened, our veneration of big raptors gave rise to cultural practices like those of the Kazakhs of the Mongolian steppes, who famously hunt with Golden Eagles , and to the presence of eagles as symbols of power in everything from Arabic poetry to European nationalism and Japanese folktales.

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I said at the start that the idea of an eagle attacking a wolf might seem "contrary to sensible behaviour". But, as people who know eagles will tell you, this doesn't mean that it doesn't, or can't, happen on occasion in the wild. Golden eagles can and do definitely kill coyotes and foxes, so the idea of one making a mistake, or just being bold enough, to try and take out a wolf is not far-fetched. An additional six deaths and 13 injuries were reported but not verified by the ADC. What else might be possible? There are various anecdotes of eagles that were trained to kill horses and donkeys, and of course there are all those tales of eagles attacking people adults as well as children.

Steve Bodio told me about a case from Kazakhstan where a Golden eagle tried to take a Snow leopard, but the cat won. And there are also authenticated cases of eagles attacking planes and gliders: more on that another time I have photos. The idea of big eagles attacking people is typically regarded as fairytale nonsense. It isn't. The whole 'eagles as macropredators' thing is covered in the extremely affordable Tetrapod Zoology Book One , but it's also been covered in these articles Deblinger, R.

Golden eagle predation on pronghorns in Wyoming's Great Divide Basin. Journal of Raptor Research 30, McEneaney, T. Bald eagle predation on domestic sheep. Wilson Bulletin 95, Nybakk, K. Golden eagle predation on semidomestic reindeer. Wildlife Society Bulletin 27, Phillips, R. Golden eagle predation on domestic calves Wildlife Society Bulletin, 24 , Eagles are trained by feeding them meat pieces fixed into the eye sockets of a wolf skin which is dragged on a rope across the steppe. Their job is to seize the wolf by the face, blinding it, and hold down until the hunter rides up and kills it.

Note that steppe wolves are not much larger than coyotes. I never heard about this, it is intriguing, in terms of behaviour, ecology, anthropology And the video is amazing!


Impressive when the wolf gets the first eagle, and the second one comes at its back! I can understand scepticism, but those images are there! I am very interested about the attach Well, it seems that Vladimir posted part of the answer while I was posting the question! Food into the eye-sockets, wow Thanks, Vlad - I didn't know that about the terminology will now go and amend article. You are right about the size of the wolves, of course. Falconer friend told me that juvenile raptors like many young predators have only vague idea what prey is suitable.

Hunters give juveniles tied animals or dead prey, teaching them to attack animals much bigger than their normal prey. I also seen fascinating pictures of Saker Falcon attacking and bringing down Grey Herons as pests of fishponds, several times bigger than themselves. Human dispatched the heron. BTW Beautiful illustration.

Somehow, I am fascinated by all these old, wild illustrations - not like latte mocca pictures of today. They do say that the cub was exceptionally sickly and small relative to the other two cubs, so I doubt that this kind of thing is common occurrence. I have a drawing by a Russian hunter with a fox skin and the eyepiece meat, evocatively titled "tidbits"-- reproduced in my book Eagle Dreams. Bear cubs may be a rare quarry but as Darren says large mammals are not. I know of two people who have seen predation on pronghorns adult , and the calf predation took place twenty miles away, on two separate occasions.

I have also seen a wolf skin with talon marks and no bullet holes in western Mongolia that was less than a week old and still pliable-- the one in the photo. And if you're sceptical of the existence of wolf-killing eagles for reasons I cannot quite understand, some people are. Bear cubs are very small when they emerge from dens, and can be carried away by an eagle easily. Many birds of prey routinely attack animals they can't carry away.

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Peregrine falcons attack geese I've only seen it once, but it's not a rare event , goshawks and eagle owls kill hares and grouse Russian name for the Northern goshawk means "black grouse hawk" , etc. But I think the consensus in Russian literature is that golden eagles don't normally hunt wolves in the wild - only foxes and jackals. Unsurprisingly ;. Here's the Youtube description: In western Mongolia, an ancient tradition of hunting with Golden Eagles is still alive.

We know from history that Genghis Khan had 1, hunting birds - eagles, falcons and gyrfalcons - and so did Kubla Khan. There were protected areas in the steppe marked with stones where only the khans were allowed to hunt. The Kazakhs of Mongolia train their eagles to hunt and here the bird of prey is often considered a family member.

Eagle Diet & Feeding

The Berkutchi is a falconer who hunts with the Golden Eagle. The training of this bird was seen as difficult and even perilous even by the experienced Synchy. From ancient times, berkutchi-falconers in the nomadic herder societies had the role of preserving and stocking furs. The high social status of the berkutchi and his family was conditioned by the climate, as warm strong and durable clothing for the people during the winter seasons was a vital necessity.

Best-suited for this were the pelts of wolves and foxes. Apart from hunting, berkutchi can give spiritual support to pregnant women, who experience or may experience difficulties in childbirth. Through the owner of the bird, which in the imagination of Asian peoples is a symbol of well-being and power. According to folk wisdom, a berkutchi is the indisputable authority in the sphere of childbirth or of renewing fertility.

The Deadly and Devious Golden Eagle

In the cultures of many nomadic and semi-nomadic peoples of Asia, it is said that a berkutchi, regardless of age, can make pregnant a woman who for a long time had not had children. Foxes of several species are indeed common prey items of golden eagles across the Northern Hemisphere.

But the killing of adult coyotes - never mind wolves - by golden eagles seems to be quite exceptional. At any rate, there are very few such cases reported in the literature.

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There is Mason , and I have seen 'coyote' age unspecified listed among prey remains recorded in North American golden eagle eyries e. As for other species of eagles preying on large wild canids, I have read of a case where a pair of wedge-tailed eagles Aquila audax supposedly killed an adult dingo I haven't been able to locate the original reference, unfortunately.

That's pretty much it, at least AFAIK; if someone knows of other reliable accounts of natural predation by large raptors on large, healthy, adult canids in the wild, then please tell. But those figures also suggest that for every calf that the eagles managed to kill there were seven that they tried but failed to kill. That doesn't sound like a particularly impressive kill-injury ratio to me considering that calves are relatively defenceless domestic animals unable to outrun the eagles.

Mason, J. Golden eagle attacks and kills adult male coyote. Journal of Raptor Research 34, Olendorff, R.

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The food habits of North American golden eagles. American Midland Naturalist 95,

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