For those readers who attend church, you have most likely heard the sermons that use eagles as similes or metaphors. They usually mention how baby eagles (eaglets) learn to fly. Supposedly, the mother eagle takes the eaglet out for a flight, then drops the eaglet. The mother will, of course, catch the eaglet before it hits the ground. Eventually, the eaglet will learn to fly, but only because it's outside its "comfort zone," right? (if heard in a sermon, cue the transition to Christian application)
Recently, I began to wonder whether this actually process actually occurred in nature. Or perhaps it was just an embellishment of the truth?
When I search for phrases like "eaglet learn to fly drop," most of the results are Christian websites using the aforementioned metaphor, or similar ones. I ignored most of those and looked at a number of non-religious, just-the-facts-ma'am eagle websites. I do not recall that any of these sites made any mention of parent eagles dropping eaglets while on a flight. Snopes.com had nothing to say about this particular subject, although it does debunk another inspirational/motivational story wherein eagles supposedly mangle themselves in order to extend their lifespans.
Concerning how eaglets learn to fly:
Baby Birds of Minnesota — March - April 1994:
The time when the chicks leave the nest is called fledging. A bald eagle chick practices flapping its wings in the nest atop a tall pine. Next it tries beating its wings into the wind and taking short hops above the nest. One day, a big gust of wind catches the bird's open wings and whisks it away. The parents follow the young eagle on its first flight.
American Bald Eagle:
Baby eagles grow very fast; they start learning to fly when they are only 2 months old! This can be a very dangerous time for an eaglet, and many will end up on the ground. The parents will usually feed a grounded eaglet, but if the youngster is not able to fly soon, it may get eaten by a predator. If everything goes right, the eaglets are ready to leave the nest and hunt alone when they are 4-6 months old.
Channel Islands Live - Eagle FAQ:
The eaglet will take its first flight all by itself. Although an eaglet has been watching its parents fly from the nest for several months, instinct will take over for its first flight. The eaglet will do lots of wing exercises and will take short practice flights across the nest to develop muscle strength. Typically for its first flight, an eaglet will fly to a nearby branch or land on the ground.
The Eagle Nature Foundation:
The wing fluttering becomes stronger as the young eagles grow. Soon they hop about the nest flapping their wings as the begging gesture, unconsciously, becomes a wing strengthing exercise. The bolder and more restless move to the rim of the nest and soon into the supporting branches.
Finally the boldest eaglet will make up its mind to try its wings in earnest. The others will soon follow. To stimulate their young to fly, the adults have been feeding them less and spending more time away from the nest. They may also fly by with food in their talons to tempt the hesitant young to follow.
At first, the fledglings make only short flights from the nest.
Also keep in mind that the term "eagle," without any modifiers, is a very broad term. There are many different kinds of eagles. Who knows? Some particular species of eagles might actually do the whole dropping-the-eaglet thing. Perhaps parent eagles might push the eaglets out, but I found no mention on eagle sites about dropping-the-eaglet-while-flying.
I am not opposed to using colorful real-life metaphors to help illuminate sermon points. I am, however, slightly annoyed at embellishing the truth or using urban-legends-taken-at-face-value in sermons. A Christian should be truthful in all things, and should examine such widely used and accepted metaphors before using them in lessons. (or maybe I'm making too big of a deal out of nothing)
Have you heard this illustration before? Have you ever seen a documentary that showed this sort of behavior? If you have, please let me know.