Flight of the eagles

Dieser Beitrag auf Deutsch.

After the falcons, the show at Wildpark Tambach continued with a raptor that likes walking on foot. Aquila nipalensis, the Steppe Eagle, is an impressively large bird when it follows a dinky falcon in a show, but as far as eagles are concerned it is quite a bit less majestic than later participants in the show.

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Instead of flying to the handler’s glove, the bird actually landed just in front of her and obviously waited for her to increase the fodder on the glove before he agreed to hop up.

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I didn’t get any good in-flight pics of the Steppe Eagle, because the drizzle had picked up quite a bit. Here’s the best (or should I say, least bad).

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Note the ducked-down head!

After the Steppe Eagle, an animal well able to take down the not-too-big wolves of Mongolia or Kasachstan if the falconers send two eagles for one wolf (thank you, TV, for this oh-so-useful trivia info), the show continued with another eagle, quite a bit bigger.

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Yes, the first photo is over-exposed. Sigh. I know :(

Anyways, Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). The bird did what eagles are famous for: pose with half-folded wings and tongue out, which makes them look very much like a heraldic animal come to life. Much like the falcons, the eagles love to fly very low, swooping down on the viewers. Sounds like fun, but mainly this keeps them in the ground effect, because they are so low that they displace air that gets pressed against the ground (which, as opposed to air, doesn’t give), and thus creates a higher pressure. Not much, but the little (up to 2,5x to 3x lift/drag ratio in aircraft!) is enough to give more lift for the same wing profile and speed.

As a consequence, the eagles often brush against visitors with their wing and tail feathers. The Bald Eagle hit my lens hood with its tail, and the folks behind me were quite surprised I didn’t flinch. Well, to be honest, looking down a 300 mm barrel trying to get a manual focus on an eagle that was about to fly right over my head didn’t give me time to do anything but hectically fiddle with the focus ring and hit the trigger. No luck on the photos, they were out of focus – but it was worth the try. At that range, the autofocus of a telezoom costing less than 10,000 bucks simply can’t cope with the speed at which the range closes. Photos from another run turned out better, for the part where the eagle was far enough away.

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I have three more photos for you, with the first one showing off the size of the beast fairly well. Being birds eagles weigh surprisingly little for their size, but the claws and beaks are pretty awesome! The last pic is a somewhat unusual perspective. It shows nicely how big raptors are mostly wing and tail, with the body forming part of the airfoil. Just compare to big, flatfishy-flat fighter planes like the F-14.

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About Heinrich Mallison

I'm a dinosaur biomech guy working at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin.
This entry was posted in Aves, Dinopics, Dinosauria, Maniraptora, Theropoda, Zoos. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Flight of the eagles

  1. Pingback: Der Flug der Adler | dinosaurpalaeo auf Deutsch

  2. Mark Robinson says:

    Lovely photos, Heinrich. Thanks for sharing these – I do like eagles. Have been lucky enough to have been pulled out of the audience at a couple of raptor shows at different wildlife parks (well, I did put my hand up and say “Yep, I’ll have a go” when they asked for a volunteer!). Wedge-tailed eagle talons are *very* impressive close-up.

    Ground effect occurs when the flying thing is below an altitude approximately equal to the object’s wingspan (obviously varies a bit with wing parameters and roughness of terrain). Not only do you get an increase in the pressure differential between the upper and lower surfaces of the wing (airfoil) but the closeness of the ground limits the formation of wingtip vortices, which reduces drag, effectively increasing lift.

  3. Pingback: Mammal Monday 50: yummy theropod! | dinosaurpalaeo

  4. Pingback: Flight of the vultures | dinosaurpalaeo

  5. Pingback: non-raptors at the Wildpark Tambach | dinosaurpalaeo

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