Now a miracle faceplant eagle

January 4, 2013 • 11:33 am

Via Planet Forward, we have another miracle—in the metaphorical sense, of course—bird recovery after it hit a truck at 65 miles per hour. The picture below shows what happened to a bald eagle in Idaho.  How could it possibly have survived? But it did!


As Planet Forward recounts:

Truck driver Ben Wright was more than startled when a bald eagle struck his windshield with great force as he traveled along the interstate outside of Bear Lake, Idaho at 65 miles per hour. “I didn’t know what hit the windshield, all I knew was the glass exploded, and this thing was screaming just like a child, or something,” Wright said of the experience.

The bald eagle’s wing kept her from coming entirely through the windshield. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game responded to the scene of the accident to care for the eagle, and determined that the eagle was hemorrhaging through her mouth and nostrils. The Department of Fish and Game sent this feisty patient to the nearby Teton Raptor Center; a non-profit organization focused on birds of prey, in Wilson, Wyoming.

Dan Foreman of the Teton Raptor Center explained that this particular eagle is an incredibly strong bird. Aside from the internal injuries, she had no lacerations or broken bones, amazingly. During her recovery, the staff at the center limited contact with the eagle to reduce her stress. The eagle was willing and able to eat without assistance from the staff at the Center, which aided in her recovery. Often staff members have to force-feed injured birds in their care.

Jason Jones, a former attorney and master falconer, patiently nursed the eagle and fed her mostly quail stuffed with antibiotics to aid in her recovery. The Teton Raptor Center cared for two other patients during this eagle’s recovery, another bald eagle, and a golden eagle, both injured from assumed impact with cars. In the case of the miracle eagle, however, the cause of her injuries was well known.

After a month of recovery at the Teton Raptor Center, the eagle had sufficiently recovered to be released into the wild.

Here’s a news video of the incident and its aftermath. The last half-minute, when she’s released back into the wild, is heart-warming.

h/t: Diane G

37 thoughts on “Now a miracle faceplant eagle

  1. I’m beginning to get concerned about the birds that are going to rise up based on this selection pressure. D[r]oves of truck resistant birds milling around all over the place, pooing at will.

    1. I think poo is the least of our worries. Keeping in mind that birds are the closest living descendants of dinosaurs and that mammals were small things that spent most of their lives hiding during the age of dinosaurs, this could signal the beginning of their return.

  2. OK, I will ask… HOW could it possibly survive that impact with minimal damage? And how the heck could he possibly drive into a truck? Was she texting, or what?

    1. It probably has much to do with the aerodynamic shape of the eagle’s skull, designed to cut through wind at great speed, and the design of the shatterproof glass on the windshield, absorbing shock by breaking into tiny pieces (not the sharp shards of shatter), particularly with the force concentrated into a very small bit of surface area.

      The glass is probably designed for the human nead to it it. Better the glass should break than the skull.

      Now, there’s some intelligent design! A modern day miracle of technology!

          1. My guess: Total attention to the prey she targeted, moving too fast to worry about predators targeting her, and genetically not geared for fast-moving technology. Whether an eagle has the capacity to learn and adapt, I can’t know, but if so, those who do will survive those who don’t.

      1. You’re thinking of tempered side-window glass. Windshield glass is laminated – there’s a thin sheet of plastic in the center – so it doesn’t break into little pieces & go flying all about. To some extent it restrains stuff from going thru it, as it seems to have done with the eagle. One lucky bird!

        1. I might have the name wrong, but the concept of modern (last few decades) windshields is that they’re build to avoid becoming large, sharp shards, able to slice faces, throats, and major blood vessels. The results come into the ER, and there’s quite a difference between these last few decades and earlier. The older windshield material was horrible.

          1. Ah! Per Wikipedia:
            the newest glass breaks into safer tiny bits, as I was saying, though it’s overall stronger glass than the original (household window glass), plus, the plastic laminate in between, which you brought up, holds the broken little pieces from flying all over the place. I’ve seen windshields shattered yet all the bits plastically hanging together. That’s probably what kept face-plant eagle entrapped, creating a sort of one-way valve that narrowed when it tried to pull back out.

  3. I’m glad the truck driver’s OK; that could have been one nasty accident. I wonder what sort of animal behavior results in eagle collisions with vehicles? In Australia the wedge-tailed eagle tends to scavenge roadkill and people who are distracted (or in some cases just plain assholes) can easily hit the birds; you’ve got to spot them from far off and beep your horn to give them some chance to move aside or take off – these large birds take some time to get airborne.

    1. …these large birds take some time to get airborne.


      It’s amazing to get close to large birds like turkey vultures and watch them run/hop a few yards on their bandy legs, just before leaping magnificently into the air while unfurling their mighty wings simultaneously. Every young man’s fantasy!

      Small birds do it, too, but the motion is so quick it’s hard to notice.

      1. There are lots of Sandhill Cranes in my neck o’ the woods. The sound of their wings when they fly low overhead is exhilarating.

        1. About 10 years ago, I was out walking my dog when a bald eagle flew over my head at such a low altitude that I actually felt the air displaced on the downbeat of its wings.

          1. Jeez, I hope he had his landing gear up!

            This past month I’ve been visiting a local bird sanctuary that was instrumental in re-introducing Trumpeter Swans out here (MI; midwest in general). More than once a skein of incoming or outgoing swans flew right over me, and I felt the same thing you did. Whoa!

            Also–damn, they’re big!

        2. This spring I watched a Canada Goose fly out of one of my nest boxes to attack a couple of Sandhill Cranes that were getting a little too close. The cranes weren’t impressed.

          A few days ago I found a Trumpeter Swan dead, probably after hitting a power line. They are so big and such strong flyers that their momentum makes it hard for them to avoid the lines. Sad sight. They are magnificent birds.

    1. He/she would have probably preferred one of these:

      You don’t need to click, you get the idea. I couldn’t at first tell if that brown thing on the steering wheel was the eagle’s wing or something from the driver. I had a very large vulture get caught in my slipstream last month and it scared me half to death. Man those things are huge.

    1. I know you’re referring to the common practice in factory farming of dosing all livestock, healthy as well as sick, with antibiotics.

      But chicken soup is generally referred to as “Jewish Grandmother Penicillin.”



      1. It’s also the magic cure-all in southern China. Well, the cure-all that works on some things and doesn’t involve weird ingredients like parts of endangered species or the copulatory organs of species.

  4. Bald eagles have successfully nested on my ranch in Idaho for 11 years. There’s also a large heron rookery with dozens of nests, moose, elk, deer, otters,two spring creeks and two ponds, all full of trout. Coyotes and occasional wolves and mountain lions. Abundant ducks, geese, trumpeter swans, and more. It a nature lover’s paradise.

  5. Re ‘miraculous’ survival stories, I once witnessed a Black-headed Python (roughly 1.8 m total length) getting run over by a Toyota Landcruiser (not mine!). At least one and probably two wheels passed over the approximate location of the snake’s heart (roughly 1/3 of the way between head and tail) and there was copious effusion of blood from the mouth during uncoordinated thrashing over the next few minutes. Collecting roadkill for a museum was part of my job at the time so I picked it up and bagged it, thinking it would be ready for the freezer by the time I got home from the evening drive. However, it actually ‘came good’ as they say in those parts, and seemed to be perfectly fit within a few days.

    Many’s the time I’ve stopped to drag a dead kangaroo off the road, in some cases too late to save the lives of one or two Wedgies already struck while feeding. They’ve survived intense persecution by sheep farmers and are now more abundant than for a long time, but it’s a shame to see them – or any animal, maybe even feral cats* and foxes* – get killed like that.

    *Yes they’re cute, but shouldn’t be running wild everywhere.

      1. It sounds slightly more diminutive than ‘Budgie’ (Budgerigar), but is the term in common use among Australians (especially biologists) for our largest predatory bird, the Wedge-tailed Eagle.

        Work in recent years on the feeding physiology of snakes indicates that the mass of internal organs, including the heart and digestive tract, steadily reduces during a prolonged fast, so they effectively digest their own bodies to stay alive. The reduction is made up over a few days after they start feeding again. (Birds show similar annual cycles with regard to reproductive tissues and even the bits of the brain that control territorial song in songbirds.) I’d guess that the rapid and apparently complete repair of damage to the heart and lungs in the python was part of this somewhat extreme capacity for regeneration. Interestingly, snakes are in the minority of squamates (‘lizards’) that can’t regenerate their tails, but they’re quite good at regrowing scales and even tongues.

    1. maybe even feral cats* and foxes* – get killed like that.
      *Yes they’re cute, but shouldn’t be running wild everywhere.

      In Australia, New Zealand and the rest of the Pacific off the immediate coasts of the continents, canines and felines shouldn’t be running around wild, full stop. (We could have a worthwhile discussion about dingos.)

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