In Eagles

Do eagles lose talons and beak during a rejuvenation process during their lifetime?

The eagle has a lifespan of 70 years. By age 40 its talons and beak become too bent and he can no longer catch some prey. He has to make a decision and he has 2 options either DIE or go through a 5 month rejuvenating process. He flies to a mountain top and there goes through the process of knocking its beak until it falls off and and grows back. The talons and old feathers are plucked out and new talons and feathers grow back. The eagle can then live another 30 years This rather fanciful tale, which circulates in the form of a slide presentation, claims that eagles can live for up to 70 years if they go through a prolonged and painful process of rebirth during their 40th year. According to the story, to be "reborn" at forty, the eagle must retreat to its nest on a mountain top, first knock of and then regrow its beak, then pluck out and regrow its talons and, finally, pluck out and regrow its feathers, a process that takes 150 days. Thus renewed, the eagle can take its "flight of rebirth" and go on to live another thirty years.

©iStockphoto.com/Andy Gehrig
Claims that eagles go through a long and painful process of "rebirth" in order to live another 30 years are pure nonsense However, the information in the message is false. Eagles do not undergo the process of rebirth described in the slide show. In fact, the story is simply an allegory about change and does not reflect the real life style of eagles. Presumably, the creator of the slide show invented the eagle rebirth story as a means of illustrating his or her concepts regarding the role of change in our lives. Unfortunately, the author has presented the rebirth story as if it was factual and therefore many recipients tend to take it literally.

Of course a closer review soon reveals the absurdity of the tale. The story does not explain how the eagle could possibly survive without food or water for the five months of its transformation. Moreover, an eagle's talons and beak continue to grow throughout its life and therefore do not grow old and unusable as claimed in the story. And its feathers are also continually replaced. The American Bald Eagle Information website notes: For those of you who have e-mailed me wondering if it's true that an eagle goes into seclusion, plucks all of its feathers, sheds its beak and talons, and then renews itself, is a myth. An eagle's beak and talons grow continuously, because they are made of keratin, the same substance as our hair and fingernails. Eagles molt in patches, taking almost half a year to replace feathers, starting with the head and working downward. Not all feathers are replaced in a given molt. An eagle without feathers, talons, and a beak would die of starvation and exposure. Bald eagles typically live between twenty and thirty years in the wild. The lifespan of other species of eagles may vary, although none are known to reach seventy years in the wild.

Although scientists have studied eagles of various species for generations and much has been published about them, no credible sources back up the "eagle rebirth" story in any way. There are, however, plenty of reliable sources that dismiss the story as a foolish hoax.

Rebirth stories, such as that of the mythical phoenix rising from the ashes of its funeral pyre, have been part of human cultures for thousands of years. The philosophical message behind the story - that we often need to undergo a painful and prolonged process of change in our lives in order to spiritually grow and move forward - is certainly worth heeding. However the nonsensical story used as a vehicle for the message all but destroys its credibility.

And there are other anomalies in the presentation. In some slides, the eagle shown in the photographs is a Bald Eagle, but in others a different species, the Golden Eagle, is shown. The story also sprouts the scientifically meaningless claim that "the eagle has the longest life-span of its species". The author perhaps meant to say that eagles live longer than all other kinds of birds, but this is also incorrect. Parrots and other species of birds are known to live longer than eagles.
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