Eagle Vs. Reindeer

Sometimes, nature needs a metal soundtrack.

The BBC posted two videos of golden eagles hunting baby reindeer in Finland. They don't have an embed option, so you'll have to follow the link to watch. It's the first time this has ever been filmed. In fact, the native Sami people have been saying for years that eagle on reindeer violence was going on, but most experts didn't believe them until scientist Harri Norberg from the University of Lapland gathered forensic (and, now, this video) evidence for his Ph.D. thesis. His incredibly awesome Ph.D. thesis.


You look tasty, but I'm saving my appetite for the baby reindeer. Golden eagle image (man pictured NOT Harri Norberg) courtesy Flickr user mikebaird, via CC

To kill a reindeer, the birds strike it in a specific region in its withers, driving their talons into the mammal's lungs. "They are not killing anything instantly so they have to ride like a rodeo cowboy on the back of the calf," explained Dr. Ted Oakes, [the television producer who worked with Norberg on the filming]. "This is an extremely dangerous thing for an eagle to do, because the prey is much larger and heavier."

The downside: The video was taken from fairly far away. But even with the squinting, this is pretty cool.


  1. That’s amazing. I can’t blame the birds. I think I’d rather die from trying to eat, than die from starvation.

    Am I the only one who wants to hug that eagle?

  2. “… eagle on reindeer violence…” I like that phrase. Maybe these young eagles just need an after school social program to keep them off the tundra and out of trouble.

  3. I was recently watching a person demonstrating various owls, and she mentioned that small deer are actually one of the Eagle Owl’s prey.

    I didn’t really believe it at the time, but Wikipedia confirms it. Eagle Owls are smaller than Golder Eagles, so this no longer surprises me.

  4. And yet, I keep thinking of Katharine Hepburn talking about the turtles and the birds in Suddenly Last Summer.

  5. I went to Mongolia to ride with some Kazakhs who still hunt fox with golden eagles, and I can tell you those are some amazing and powerful animals. In addition to killing Reindeer, they’re known to hunt wolves, deer, mountain goats and other large prey.

    Their talons are incredibly strong, and they’re very aggressive animals. After spending a little time with them, I wouldn’t be holding one that close to my eye without a hood.

  6. “Its a hard life for little things.” – Night of the Hunter

    Also, I think SamSam is talking about the Eurasian eagle owl, the largest owl breed in the world. Very cool animals. I know a woman who breeds them domestically in the United States.

  7. Some years back in the Yolla Bolly wilderness area I watched a Golden Eagle fledgeling gliding down a slope. As I followed it downhill it took a squirrel, from behind, off a fencepost about 15 yards from me. Bam. Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

  8. Not surprising at all, though awesome. Check out this video of an eagle dragging a goat off a cliff.
    or this kept eagle killing a deer
    or this photo montage of eagles killing wolves and foxes (mostly for Mongolian fur hunters)
    or this exceedingly brutal (some might say cruel) video of a Mongolian eagle hunting festival where they let a wolf pup go for eagles to hunt

  9. Every once in a while I read something that makes me go HOLY CRAP! This was one of those things.

    In the distant shot of the video it looked more like the eagle was taking down the deer in the manner of a lion or tiger than swooping off with it. Still, that takes some serious weaponry.

  10. I once saw a golden eagle swoop down on a murder of crows that were milling about, grab one in its talons, and fly away with it. I was quite close, the bird must’ve had a five-foot wingspan. It was amazing.

  11. I gather the eagle on his glove is thinking “yeah, I can totally take you, monkey boy…”

    Five minutes later his “Predation of Golden Eagles on large prey” thesis was proven far beyond his ability to cite anymore.

  12. How do we write a law that permits these videos, but that still bans the other animal-cruelty / “crush” videos?

    1. AT203: Laws against animal cruelty already exist. Like most laws, non-humans are exempt from following them.

  13. Circa 1992, one of the Park Rangers at Bandelier National Monument (actually, everyone in the park at that end of the main canyon) witnessed a golden eagle take off with a struggling elk calf.

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