Amazing footage of camera-clad eagle: real or fake?

If this video is real, it’s one of the most amazing bird films I’ve seen. It was posted three days ago, apparently from France, and already has nearly 2.4 million views.

It seems to show footage from a camera mounted on the back of an eagle, and really gives you the sense of what it’s like to soar above the ground:

However, as the Los Angeles Times reports, the source and authenticity of the video hasn’t yet been verified:

The video was posted Monday by YouTube user Srachi. The posting lists the location of the flight simply as the Mer de Glace area of Chamonix, France. Mer de Glace, or Sea of Ice, is one of the longest glaciers in the Alps, extending for 3½ miles. Deep greenery, blue sky and snow-touched mountains fall away, bumpily, beneath the bird as it flies.

Efforts by the L.A. Times to reach the video’s creator were unsuccessful as of the time of this posting. But the video had created a sensation by Thursday, with nearly 1.7 million views.

. . .How was it done? Some news outlets say it was taken from the back of the eagle with a GoPro, a small camera used for remote photography and video.

Scientists design animal backpacks of all sorts for their feathered test subjects, and for many different purposes. Many are GPS-based, so that researchers can track the long-distance trips of migrating birds. Others seek to use the birds as their eyes and ears in the environment. One team at Cornell University is building a removable backpack that draws energy from the bird’s movements to power a host of sensors.

And, if you have 53 minutes to spare (believe me, it won’t be wasted), watch this show recommended by the Times: an episode of BBC’s Earthflight that used “microlight aircraft, paragliders, drones and camera-carrying birds” to capture remarkable footage of more than 100 species of airborne birds from 40 countries. The show, which took four years to film, will be released in six episodes. The link above gives the full episode filmed in Europe.


  1. Merilee
    Posted September 19, 2013 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    You do see its shadow on th ground, but I do wonder what all the noise is.

    • Posted September 19, 2013 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

      The noise is the wind and the flow of air, I reckon.

  2. marktmaultby
    Posted September 19, 2013 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    Earthflight is a BBC documentary.

  3. Posted September 19, 2013 at 4:33 pm | Permalink


    • Posted September 19, 2013 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

      It is not a fake, it is quite authentic.

      The following article in the Swiss newspaper “Le Matin” at states that the camera was affixed to the back of an eagle in view of the reintroduction of the species in that area. It was made with the collaboration of the «Aigles du Léman» animal park situated in Thonon. It was made in prelude of a 90 minute film which will allow one to have an unique visual experience in close intimacy with these birds. The spectators will be able to follow two white-tailed eagles, a species which has vanished from France since 1959. These two birds of prey have been living in captivity these past ten years and will soon regain their freedom in the wild. It is the first time an attempt will be made to reintroduce adult birds.

      • Achrachno
        Posted September 19, 2013 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

        I’m convinced. I watched it 3 times, noticing new details with each viewing, but not convincing myself of any fatal flaws. I agree with those who said that it would be harder to fake than to just film for real. That seems likely to be true.

        I think I’ll watch it again. It has not begun to get boring.

  4. Marella
    Posted September 19, 2013 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    If that’s fake it’s a brilliant one. It looks real to me, but I know nothing about pixels. 😉

  5. Posted September 19, 2013 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    It’s not fake. This has been done several times now and is easier with tame raptors like I assume this one is.

  6. Diana MacPherson
    Posted September 19, 2013 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Wow! I feel just like Gandalf!

  7. Diana MacPherson
    Posted September 19, 2013 at 5:02 pm | Permalink


  8. Stephen Barnard
    Posted September 19, 2013 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    Clever fake with 99% confidence. 🙂

    The shadow at 0:56 is clearly contrived. Notice the shadow cast by the tree to the right, which comes out of nowhere and is inconsistent with the lighting context. It’s one of a handful of frames that have been edited to lend credence to this fake. Clever, though.

    Why don’t we see the takeoff and landing, or any prep? I could be unkind and say that the eagle’s head resembled a sock puppet (so I will). It’s real enough to make me suspect they shackled an eagle to a hang glider.

    • Posted September 19, 2013 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

      It is absolutely NOT a fake. See my post above in response to dunnfjfrancis. It has been in the news on TV in Switzerland. I live in Geneva and this news was of course aired on the French-speaking state TV.

    • Posted September 19, 2013 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

      The shadow appears at two points. Once briefly at .56, and again near the end as the eagle flies over some hikers. There you can see what look like tethers on the shadow feet.
      The direction of the eagle shadow seems to match the direction of shadows of other objects. The whole footage seems very plausible. The technology is there, and there is no doubt it is do-able.
      Most importantly: it would be harder to fake it than to do it for real.

      • Marella
        Posted September 20, 2013 at 12:32 am | Permalink

        That was exactly what I thought. Doing it would be simpler than faking it.

      • Marcel Volker
        Posted September 20, 2013 at 8:16 am | Permalink

        Same idea here.

        Faking this would be so much more complicated than actually strapping a GoPro to an eagle.

        And if you’re gonna do a fake that is convincing 99% of the time, you wouldn’t miss that remaining 1%.

        Like, nitpicking over one shadow here and there is the same level of paranoia as about the Moon landing hoax.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted September 19, 2013 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

      The tree shadow at 0:56 doesn’t come out of nowhere; it’s completely consistent with previous tree shadows around 0:42-0:45. It just so happens that our view of such shadows is blocked for a few seconds in between.

      I agree with Mark: if want to convince us it’s fake, you need to provide an account of how the fakery was accomplished that’s easier than strapping a camera to a real eagle’s back.

  9. Diane G.
    Posted September 19, 2013 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    I suspect the eagle’s real experience involves compensating for all the jolts and tilts, maybe by head turning.

  10. Stephen Barnard
    Posted September 19, 2013 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Come to think of it, what is a Bald Eagle doing in France? They’re New World. Is it a similar species, like a Sea Eagle? Is it a domestic? Is it a Golden Eagle with a dye job? 🙂 Having at least a note or two of the prep, like the camera on the bird’s back, and the species, and maybe his or her name, would be appreciated.

    • Posted September 19, 2013 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

      It is not a Bald Eagle, it is a white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla). Read all about it at

    • Posted September 19, 2013 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

      Here is a rather beautiful illustration of the white-tailed eagle:

    • Posted September 19, 2013 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

      A few good photos of the white-tailed eagle:

      • Posted September 19, 2013 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

        For that last link, you need to copy the whole link (all the way to albicilla.jpg) and paste it into the address field in a new tab.

      • Stephen Barnard
        Posted September 19, 2013 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

        Handsome bird, Haliaeetus albicilla. It looks very similar to a Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus. They form a species pair. I think they’re both called sea eagles, somewhere, but I’ve never heard the Bald Eagle called that here.

  11. Dalai Llama
    Posted September 19, 2013 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    Pff, eagles. It’s all about the smaller birds of prey. The goshawk footage is eerily reminiscent of that one scene in Star Wars on the speeder bikes, though the peregrine falcon is not exactly shabby either.

    • Stephen Barnard
      Posted September 19, 2013 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

      That Goshawk sequence in insane.

      • Stephen Barnard
        Posted September 19, 2013 at 7:34 pm | Permalink


  12. lanceleuven
    Posted September 20, 2013 at 12:21 am | Permalink

    Seems pretty real to me. Why fake something that would be much easier to do in real life? (using a trained bird)

  13. Posted September 20, 2013 at 1:47 am | Permalink

    As a former hang glider pilot I have no reason to doubt the authenticity of this video. The sights, sounds, and motion are all consistent with gliding flight along a mountainous slope – ah, yes, I remember it well. 🙂

  14. Posted September 20, 2013 at 1:53 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Shane O'Mara's Blog.

  15. Stan
    Posted September 20, 2013 at 6:15 am | Permalink

    I’ve tried several times to access the video but get a message that says “This video is private”. Bottom line – it’s been hidden from public view – bummer. But the Goshawk video above is incredible.

  16. Notagod
    Posted September 20, 2013 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    Try the link that vierotchka provided.

  17. marksolock
    Posted September 20, 2013 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Mark Solock Blog.

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