From Motherboard: I knew we were all in for an epic display of virality (sorry) last night when I saw about a dozen unrelated people share the same video last night, a video that features a toddler in Montreal, one turned into a tasty, immobile package of calories by its winter clothing, get snatched up by a golden eagle and dropped on its head. Whether or not you've seen it already, watch it again. Don't worry, I'll wait.
Thing is, the video was on the front page of Reddit and had just about everyone's mom sharing it, but I was still impressed to wake up this morning and see it'd grabbed 1.2 million views in 24 hours. That's impressive, and was for awhile the second-most viewed YouTube video in the last 24 hours. But it's also hogwash.
First off, the bird's white plumage doesn't look like a golden eagle. Adult golden eagles have white tails and smatterings of white in their wings, not a brown tail with white wing tips. That right there is enough for me to call it. But everything else is off too.
Already floating around are a couple videos claiming the original is a fake. Here's one I thought was the most helpful:
As you can see, the baby seems to float upward after being released by the eagle. That could be explained by the kid's inertia of being pulled upward by the eagle, or maybe the eagle's talon was hooked on a string or something that doesn't show up in the pixelated video, but the physics of the thing seem off. Right now, I'd figure any of the three scenarios are equally likely. (There's also the classic CGI "found footage" trick of the shooter aiming the camera at the ground while the camera changes scenes; it's really hard to keep the CGI trick up while a camera is moving quickly.)
There's also this image, linked in the description of the video above. It comes in early in the original video, and apparently shows the eagle being a two-piece eagle:
Again, that could be some sort of artifact of the video itself, but it's so large that I don't think it can be just a resolution error.
Still, all we're working with here is the usual tools of YouTube conspiracy theories: zoomed in, pixelated images, and image artifacts. But what about the actual biology? Could a golden eagle even snatch up a kid?
Well, golden eagles have wingspans between six and nearly eight feet (the video gets that right), and have a grip strength somewhere between 20 and 35 times that of the average human. They're immensely, unfathomably powerful birds, which is why they can take down deer:
Basically, I'd argue that if a real golden eagle was trying to snatch that kid, the kid would be hosed, especially considering he or she was wearing an easily-gripped puffy jacket.
Also, the behavior of the attack is off to me. Years ago I apprenticed for a falconer's license (yep) and I've hunted with a number of large birds, including red-tailed hawks and gyrfalcons. (No eagles yet, unfortunately, although I have chilled with a golden eagle, and yes, they really are huge.) The way the eagle homes in on the kid feels a bit off, with a wide turn and long approach that's more reminiscent of a fighter plane landing than a raptor, which generally circle at height for awhile before attacking, rather than taking a sudden u-turn to snatch a baby. Perhaps the CGI artist watched more Top Gun than Planet Earth.
That's not conclusive, but what's also odd is the eagle trying to fly away with the kid. Even with their size, golden eagles weigh no more than a couple dozen pounds, and that kid weighs at least that again. (I have no idea how much kids weight, so I'm erring on the light side.) Raptors that hunt fish snatch them out of the water and fly away, but I'm not sure an eagle could even lift the kid. Remember, the last time a golden eagle famously snatched something, it dropped the goat off a cliff, when it likely would have preferred to fly away with the thing if it could carry it. Also, as seen in the deer video above and with just about every raptor I've seen hunting, it's common for the bird to initially eat prey where it lands, rather than trying to carry it away.
Again, as I'm not supremely familiar with golden eagle behavior, please chime in if you are. But the whole thing seems off to me, from the video side to the bird's flight, and the plumage situation is a huge red flag. I think it's a well done fake. In either case, it doesn't change the fact that the video is nuts. Just don't start worrying about golden eagles snatching your kids, please.
This post was syndicated from Motherboard.
Update: Yep, just got confirmation that the video was created using CGI by four students at Centre NAD as part of a school project. Apparently both the eagle and the child are CGI, added to the video afterward. Here's the statement.
If it is a real bird, I'm not sure its a Golden Eagle The name is probably just from an ill-informed youtuber, and shouldn't hold too much relevance.
Also the main thing I noticed is that the bird didn't tackle, but maybe I'm thinking more of hawks an falcons.
Its really too bad they didn't try to show any claw marks on the jacket.
It is some kind of school project.
I have a hard time believing that an eagle would come that close to an adult human, for openers, in order to go after something which would look mostly like a bundle of textiles to the bird.
The main problem though is the behavior of the bird's wings - it is making little braking strokes still, when it is supposedly taking off with a huge load. Watch a bird lift off in slow motion - they make complete wing excursions. The wings meet over their back, and continue on well beneath the body line, with a very significant supination of the wing toward vertical on the upstroke, and rapid, powerful beats. This bird has her wings stretched forward and makes small flight-control/braking motions when she is supposedly exerting full force to accelerate and gain altitude. It's not the correct wing motion at all.
There are other faults as well I guess, but the wing motion is just wrong. I think it's a video of a raptor landing, and they've just repositioned it basically, to make it arbitrarily gain altitude and move forward. It could be something like an eagle following a rabbit over the ground, slowing down and positioning for a grab but maintaining slow flight.
When the eagle latches onto the baby and attempted lift, it would have to suddenly force down a lot of air pressure with its wings. In reality it looks like the wings push down hardly at all.
The first video is impressive observing from a far, but at close up, not so much.
I thought it was hilarious when I first saw it.
Although I am skeptical, I wouldn't discount the video immediately.
The eagle isn't necessarily trying to fly off with the child. It is only trying to get the child high enough off the ground so that when it drops the child, the child will fall to its death.
This is a tactic that the golden eagle uses when it is hunting mountain goats. It drags a goat off of a cliff and then releases the goat.
The goat falls to its death and the eagle can then swoop in to feed.
A fall of 30 feet is usually lethal. I don't know if a golden eagle is strong enough to lift a 30 lb toddler to a height of 30 feet. But they can drag mountain goats that are nearly 100 lbs off of a cliff, so clearly they are pretty strong birds.
The motion of the eagle and the child DOES seem to be a little bit off. I am not sure if the image stabilizer of the video camera is lagging a few seconds behind the live action or whether the child and the eagle have been digitally inserted into the video.
I am leaning a little towards the former possibility...the image stabilizer is lagging.
Although CGI effects are much easier to accomplish than they used to be they are still very time-consuming and somewhat expensive.
The CGI available to the average consumer is not typically going to give them much capability beyond inserting a lightsaber into a fight scene.
With this particular video, EACH frame of the video would have to be painstakingly edited to match the surroundings as well as the previous frames. Lighting is also the hardest thing to get right in CGI and I don't see many mistakes in this video.
If it IS a fake, it is a darn good one.
Ok. There IS a very noticable mistake. The shadow of the eagle and the child disappears in several of the frames and that would not happen in real life.
So, yes...the video is probably fake.
BUT...the missing shadows could be the result of an upload error. So many possiblities.
In conclusion...what the eagle is doing in this video IS possible whether this video is fake or not.
Match up the shadows connecting points and you can quickly see it was fake. The amazing image forensics team at FourAndSix got it right quite quickly.
The post here described the science behind the process:
Just wanted to point out the the wing beat is right for a golden eagle of that size, (which would be female) and also no golden eagle has ever weighed a coule dozen pounds, they average 9 pound. The eagle would be able to soar across that way because of thermal's and when it becomes lower the wind direction causes it to land before trying to take the child. it is extremely unlikly this would ever happen with a wild golden eagle as they have a natural fear of people. Also for an eagle to attack something it usually has to have a familiarity with something else it would usually hunt