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Re: What would Hitchcock have thought...?



Scientific experiments to dispell myths about eagles carrying off children were first recorded in 1940, in Nature magazine (vol 33, no. 4).

But I don't think the traditional stories about giant raptors are about today's golden eagles (or vultures or condors, which are chiefly carrion eaters and unlikely to carry off human-size prey in their talons.

Most of the Native American tales specify that these predatory birds lived in earlier "ages" and have now disappeared. Many scholars suggest that the stories refer to Teratorns of the Pleistocene- Holocene which coexisted with early humans until about 8,000 years ago and were widespread across North America; their remains are found along with human habitation sites. Larger species of condors lived then too. The largest raptor living today is the Andean condor with 10-12 ft wingspan, but like the eagle its feet are too weak to carry heavy prey very far.

But, compared to the California condor with a wingspan of 9 to 10 feet, and today's eagle with a wingspan of 7-8 feet, Ice Age Teratorns were heavy-bodied and had wingspans of 12 to nearly 17 feet. They apparently picked up prey with strong beaks, not talons like eagles and condors, which are mainly carrion eaters. I think teratorns could pick up a small child.

Refs: Nature 33 (1940); Coleman and Clark 1999, 236-38, citing Ken Campbell; Feduccia 1986; and refs cited in Mayor, Fossil Legends, 367-68 notes 26-27, 374-75 notes 60-63, historical survey of reported avian abductions see Michel and Rickard, Living Wonders (Thames & Hudson 1982), 138-43.


On Jan 14, 2006, at 10:46 AM, Danvarner@aol.com wrote:

In a message dated 1/14/2006 1:18:45 PM Eastern Standard Time,
afmayor@aol.com writes:

<< This might help explain the traditional Native American  stories of
giant raptors that carried off folks to their nests, until  now
thought to be fanciful tales. >>

Well, before you get too "carried away" you may want  to read this from
http://home.sou.edu/~rible/wildlife/index.htm  :

<< Interesting notes: One of the more unusual things written about the
golden eagle, as is sometimes written about the bald eagle, is its alleged ability
to lift large prey off the ground and fly with it to their nest. They have
been reported to carry off calves and lambs (Bent 1937; Palmer 1988a), but
such prey would have to be unusually small individuals. An experiment performed
with one golden eagle weighing 11 pounds found that it could not lift a 5¼
pound weight attached to its feet off of the ground (Arnold 1954). This is a far
cry from the 10 to 11 pound capacity that one researcher had estimated
(Gilbert 1926). It is thought that the actual weight-carrying capacity is about
21% of the eagle's own weight (Huey 1962). Since golden eagles, males and
females combined, can weigh between six to 13 pounds this would put their
weight-carrying capacity at between one and three pounds. Another researcher thought
that the golden eagle might be able to carry a seven pound jackrabbit a
short distance, but that most large prey would have to be "dismantled" before
being carried aloft (Palmer 1988a). >>


DV