RE: WTE tries to lift boy - N.T.

To: "" <>
Subject: RE: WTE tries to lift boy - N.T.
From: Robin Hide <>
Date: Wed, 13 Jul 2016 03:34:55 +0000

Relevant to this thread is the account by the late Papua New Guinean natural historian, Ian Saem Majnep, of the largest raptor in his Kalam region of PNG: the Harpy-Eagle or New Guinea Eagle, Harpyopsis novaeguineae.


According to Majnep, reporting a second-hand account -


“Dwk [Harpy-Eagle] also take animals on the ground, especially wallabies, but also young dogs and pigs, and they can carry off a child. There was a man in Cdon [the northern watershed of the Schrader Range, from the Asai Valley westwards] who died not long ago, who was carried off by a dwk when he was a small child. He and his elder brother were in the forest, and the elder brother had left him in a sunny warm spot in a small clearing while he went after a possum. There were mosquitoes or midges about, and the little boy was putting his hands up to his face and head to brush them off. An eagle saw him and must have thought the child was a sgaw wallaby [Dorcopsulus vanheurni] , because wallabies also do this, sitting on their hind feet and putting their front paws up to their faces, to brush off mosquitoes. So the eagle swooped down, seized the little boy by the head, and carried him up into a tree. The boy had the presence of mind to hold on to the eagle's legs with one hand, and to grasp the branch on which the eagle perched with the other. After a while the elder brother returned, and wondering where the little boy had gone, called out to him. The child cried out that he had been carried up into the tree. The brother called to him to hold on really tight to the eagle's legs with his one hand, and to the branch with the other; and as quickly as possible he climbed up, and killed the eagle by chopping off its head with his axe. Then he told the little boy to hold on firmly with both hands to the branch above him, while he disengaged the eagle's talons from his head. Then he lifted the child to safety and carried him on his back as he climbed down to the ground. I do not know the name of the man this happened to , but people say that he had the scars on his head, from the eagle's claws, all through his life. I heard the story when I was a child, when a boy from Cdon called Spy-bej was staying with us, and told it.”

(pp. 139-140 in Majnep, Ian Saem and Ralph Bulmer (1977). Birds of My Kalam Country. Auckland, Auckland University Press).


And this by an eagle that is smaller than a WTE: e.g. 76-89 cm; wingspan 121-157 cm.


Mark Watson who studied Harpy–Eagles in another part of PNG noted in the first nest he inspected:

“There were bones of a forest wallaby, a megapode (a type of game bird), and a juvenile cassowary. Since these were large terrestrial species, the eagle would have to have carried them whole or in part up to the nest, giving some indication of how powerful this bird is. “

Mark Watson and M. Gilbert (2010). “New Guinea Harpy Eagle”. R. Tingay and T. Katzner, Eds.  The Eagle Watchers - Observing and Conserving Raptors Around the World. Ithaca and London, Comstock Publishing Associates. pp, 26-39.



Robin Hide



From: John Layton [
Sent: Wednesday, 13 July 2016 12:36 PM
Subject: RE: [canberrabirds] RE: WTE tries to lift boy - N.T.


Ian Baird writes:

I would think it highly likely that WTEs would have taken the odd Aboriginal child over the  broad sweep of human history in this country. Mind you, Australian boys of that age can be quite annoying!

Ian Baird


While wandering the U.S. south west back in 1995 I heard of a boy in the Utah back country who was attacked by an eagle – presumably a Golden Eagle Aquilla chrysaetos canadensis – while he was down on all fours digging out a rabbit burrow. Reportedly the boy was wearing a fur coat at the time so maybe the eagle mistook him for a remarkably large lagomorph. Couple of weeks later, over the state line in Colorado, an old Paiute man told me a similar story of a boy wearing a fur coat who was attacked while sitting fishing by a stream. But in the Colorado version the eagle was replaced by a mountain lion. I checked to ensure I was wearing my leather jacket so I’d pass as a rock rather than a rabbit from Down Under.


John Layton


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