If you’ve ever seen movies like Jurassic Park or The Lord of the Rings, you may wonder if any birds can carry humans.
The straight answer is no; no bird could single-handedly (or “single-talonly”) lift a human.
But what about a child? What about a team of birds? We’ll explore these questions by sharing seven surprising facts about bird strength!
Which Bird Can Carry the Most Weight?
The strongest birds in existence are Harpy Eagles. These buff birds can lift 40 or 50 pounds, depending on their size and sex. Females are significantly larger and more powerful than their male counterparts, so if you are lifted away by a Harpy Eagle, it’s likely a lady.
They weigh an average of 20 pounds, so their strength-to-weight ratio is astounding and a little frightening. While Harpy Eagles are the strongest flying bird alive, they don’t come close to having the strength to pick up a full-grown human.
Can an Eagle Carry a Human Baby?
A question that arises in people’s minds when watching small children frolic with birds flying above is, could a bird pick up a child? Terrifyingly, the answer is yes. Don’t worry; the odds of a large bird snatching your toddler are zero.
But for the sake of hypotheticals, there are five species of bird with enough flight and talon strength that they could haul off a child under 30 pounds. If your worse fear is your little one being snatched and flown away as prey, keep an eye out for the following eagles:
- Golden eagle
- Martial eagle
- Steller’s sea eagle
- Harpy eagle
- African crowned eagle
To reiterate, a bird has never taken a child. There have been unverified reports of an eagle picking up a small kid, but none have been proven, and many were internet hoaxes.
Can an Eagle Steal Your Pet?
Now that we’ve established your child is likely safe from a bird abduction, what about your rambunctious outdoor cat or fuzzy little dog? Well, if your pet weighs less than 30 pounds, an eagle could potentially pick them up and fly away.
Similarly to children, the odds of an eagle scooping up a pet are extremely low, but it’s not impossible. Eagles typically prey on creatures like opossums, smaller birds, rodents, and young deer. It wouldn’t be too far of a stretch that an eagle could mistake certain dog breeds for opossums, or confuse your ginger kitty with a small deer.
However, a dog’s bark will likely deter an eagle from any interaction. And cats are quick, clever predators themselves, so it’s unlikely an eagle could sneak up on them. Your pets are probably safe, but you can monitor them when they play outside in areas with eagles.
Can an Eagle Carry a Human Being?
We’ve determined your child and beloved pet are likely safe, but what about you? Are there any birds that can carry humans? No single bird can abduct a full-grown human. But birds who work as a team could pose a threat.
But aside from Hitchcock’s horrifying 1963 film The Birds, there is no record of birds forming group attacks or abductions on humans.
How Many Birds Would It Take To Lift a Person?
It’s hard to think of a plausible reason for birds wanting to carry off a whole human, but hypothetically speaking, a group of powerful eagles could get the job done. Since a female Harpy Eagle can lift around 40 pounds, it would only take four to six female Harpys to carry a human.
The average person weighs 140 pounds, so if each eagle is responsible for just 35 pounds, it would only take four. However, a few logistical issues indicate it would probably take five or six.
Can People Ride Birds?
Supposedly, there was a prehistoric flying creature called the Quetzalcoatlus. As discussed, no living bird could single-handedly pick an adult up and carry them to a nest. But millions of years ago, such a terrifying yet awesome creature could’ve existed.
So, if your dream is to ride a giant bird like a dragon, you are a few million years too late. Sorry. The Quetzalcoatlus is the largest flying animal of all time, as far as humans know. They possibly weighed around 500 pounds and had a wingspan as long as 36 feet.
Okay, so people ride ostriches. However, these gigantic birds with freakishly large legs are not able to fly. You can ride an ostrich around a racetrack like a horse, but they won’t be able to take flight with you on their back or at all.
Nevertheless, an ostrich can technically carry a human, but not in the flying sense some people mean. Ostrich racing is a sport akin to horse racing, where a lightweight jockey rides the ostriches around a course.
While the Harpy Eagle’s 40-pound weightlifting may be impressive, it’s nothing compared to the almost 200 pounds an ostrich can carry on its back. This strength is thanks to their mighty legs, which could kill a human with one swift kick. So, don’t hop on random ostriches in hopes of a free ride.
What Is the Elephant-Stealing Bird in Arabic Mythology?
Despite the immense improbability of a bird lifting a human, whether two or fifty years old, it’s a concept many humans have considered.
Where does this notion of an enormous bird grabbing a human come from? One ancient example of this concept is the mythic Roc, a humungous bird in Arabic mythology.
The Roc or Rukh isn’t just big and strong enough to take humans. The myth says they were monstrous enough to lift full-grown elephants and haul them off to their cave or nest.
Some claim the Roc was real, even presenting massive feathers and other questionable evidence. Even Marco Polo referred to this flying beast when writing about Madagascar and Africa.
The Bottom Line
An eagle will not suddenly scoop you up and drop you in its nest. No bird alive can pick up a human on its own. But it’s a fun and slightly unsettling topic to discuss!
Maybe something like the Quetzalcoatlus will exist one day, or maybe, the mythic Roc is real! But for now, we are all safe from bird abductions, thank goodness.