I confess that I have once used this story about the eagle’s renewal in my sermon. I had assumed it was true but now know it is not based on facts. Where and how it originated, I do not know but I can understand its powerful appeal to both the preacher and the congregation. It is a story of hope, of turn-around, of transformation. Sadly it is still available on the internet and preachers still tell the story.
THE ROMANTIC STORY OF AN EAGLE’S RENEWAL
This story has been circulated in a slide presentation and its origin is unknown. Here is one version of the story of the eagle’s renewal:
“The Eagle has the longest life-span among birds. It can live up to 70 years. But to reach this age, the eagle must make a hard decision. In its 40th year its long and flexible talons can no longer grab prey which serves as food. Its long and sharp beak becomes bent. It’s old-aged and heavy wings, due to their thick feathers, stick to its chest and make it difficult to fly. Then the eagle is left with only two options: die or go through a painful process of change which lasts 150 days. The process requires that the eagle fly to a mountain top and sit on its nest. There the eagle knocks its beak against a rock until it plucks it out. Then the eagle will wait for a new beak to grow back and then it will pluck out its talons. When its new talons grow back, the eagle starts plucking its old-aged feathers. And after 5 months, the eagle takes its famous flight of rebirth and lives for 30 more years.”
THE STORY DEBUNKED BY EXPERT
Now here is the feel-good story refuted by someone who knows better: “This has brought to mind a story that I occasionally get asked by visitors at The National Eagle Center and I have also seen it pop up in the chat room as well. It is how when an eagle gets to be about 40 years old and wants to live for another 30 years or more, the eagle will fly to a mountain top and go through a rebirth.
This is an inspiring story that has circulated widely on the internet for years. It is a story of transformation and determination to live. The wide appeal of this story speaks to the eagle’s extraordinary power to captivate and inspire human beings. While this story is inspiring, and may offer us a way to reflect on our own life journey, the story is just that, a story. It is not accurate biologically. I have underlined what the storyteller usually says and then I have written below that a rebuttal to that statement.
“The eagle has the longest life-span among birds”
Eagles typically live between 20-30 years in the wild. As apex predators, they are relatively long-lived compared to many other birds. The oldest wild eagle on record is about 32 years of age.
“It can live up to 70 years. But to reach this age, the eagle must make a hard decision. In its 40’s its long and flexible talons can no longer grab prey which serves as food.”
Talons are hard, sharp and curved throughout the eagle’s life. Talons and the beak are made out of keratin, the same material as our fingernails. Think about how long it takes for your nails to grow.
“Its long and sharp beak becomes bent”
An eagle’s beak is hooked to rip and tear it’s food. It has this distinctive hooked beak throughout its life, like all birds of prey. Beak and talons are critical to eagles’ ability to catch and consume food. No eagle can survive without a beak or talons for any amount of time.
“Its old-aged and heavy wings, due to their thick feathers, become stuck to its’ chest and make it difficult to fly”
Feathers are replaced throughout an eagle’s life. The process is called molting. An eagle does not lose all of its feathers at one time. It is a gradual process, continually renewing the feathers.
“Then the eagle is left with only two options: DIE or go through a painful process of change which lasts 150 days. The process requires that the eagle fly to a mountain top and sit on it’s nest.”
An eagle’ nest is used only for the rearing of the young. Eagles do not use their nest except for the few months of the year when they are actively raising their young.
“There the eagle knocks its’ beak against a rock until it plucks it out”
Beak and talons are critical to eagles’ ability to catch and consume food. NO eagle can survive without a beak or talons.
“When its new talons grow back, the eagle starts plucking its’ old-aged feathers”
An eagle cannot survive without food for anything close to 150 days. A few days without food might be possible, but no longer.
“And after five months, the eagle takes its’ famous flight of rebirth and lives for 30 MORE YEARS”
Reading the story definitely makes you feel good, but remember it is biologically impossible for this story to be true. Our story that we are watching on this webcam is true, and we all are learning a lot by watching it!”
A NOTE TO PREACHERS
Sorry preachers, one of our favourite crowd-pleasing stories have been cremated before our eyes. We need to verify stories that seem far-fetched, fantastic, astounding. These days the internet makes it possible for us to verify the claims of others before we present it to our people in sermons.
We have to be careful or our people will believe a lie and circulate false facts around making them look ridiculous and naïve. Our integrity is also called to question, and if not our integrity, our due diligence as preachers. “Do your best to present yourself approved to God, an unashamed workman who accurately handles the word of truth.”(2 Tim 2:15 ESV)