Me Jeff and Peter all checked this clip out some time ago; we were all very sceptical of its authenticity. The idea alone is certainly interesting to ponder on. The way the bird swoops and grabs the goat about 30 seconds into the clip looks very reminiscent of the giant monsters in old movies. Reservations withstanding, something looking incredible doesn't make make it impossible... I'm interested to hear what others thought about this clip.
I have viewed this video many times now, and do not see any kind of "special effects" in it. I do think that the editting is used in a way to create a sense of excitement (such as replaying certain scenes, using slow-motion, etc.) and to tell a story that may not have happened exactly as you see it. But that is not at all unusual in nature documentaries.
I think the footage is authentic, though it does seem to stretch believability a bit. Mainly because nothing like this has ever been captured on film. The most incredible scene for me is the shot of the eagle bringing a young sheep to its nest.
I have studied golden eagles for years, and have also been a fan of movie magic and monsters for a long time. If you want to see in my opinion the best effort of making a CG (computer generated) golden eagle, check out the last LORD OF THE RINGS movie. I think what might help make the beginning scene seem like one of those giant monster movies is that the young sheep is small, and the eagles nearly 8 foot wingspan makes it look tremendous!
I have no doubt that golden eagles are capable of this kind of hunting and if you want a more reliable resource, you can check out PLANET EARTH series and watch the MOUNTAINS episode. There is a shot of golden eagles strafing some bharal sheep. It never pulls one off a cliff, but you can tell be the reaction of the animals that they take the eagle as a serious threat. Bharal are much larger than the little wild sheep in the youtube clip.
Golden eagles can strike with great force and hunt using whatever resources they can. I am sure that is in large part what has helped them become a circumpolar species (found across northern Asia, most of Europe and throughout N. America).
Eagles are used to kill even larger animals in the mountainous regions of the middle east and western Asia. Animals up to the size of wolves are hunted in open country by men using trained golden eagles. It sounds rather unbelievable, but it is true. You can research it for yourself.
Here is the thing, though. Golden eagles generally don't go for such large animals. The reason is simple, it is very dangerous! All though an adult golden eagle is a skilled hunter, it won't be reckless about how or what it hunts. If you look at the second link in this discussion, you will see a juvenile golden eagle attacking a white-tailed deer. Again, I don't believe there is any trickery to the photos either.
I have seen young hawks take on things way to big and strong for them. There is a learning curve. Though they are born with the need to hunt, they are not born with the skills or experience. So there is some figuring out to be done. Eagles are no different.
Thanks a bunch for the reply post Fil. I most definitely respect your opinion on this, and I was particularly interested to hear your response in regards to my questioning. I lack the experience in birding and cinematography to make a definite judgement, so I learned a lot of new things when you broke it down. I'll keep looking through the planet earth videos, there are a couple of MOUNTAINS episodes, so its hard to find the right one. These are the coolest nature videos I have seen in a very long time... somewhat reminiscent of the old National Geographic videos. I'll post one up so that others will check this site out also http://dsc.discovery.com/videos/planet-earth-mountains-danakil-depr....
I hope I did not sound like some know it all. There are definitely other opinions out there, and more experienced ones too! And to add, I really pondered whether the video was a hoax the first time I watched it too. I really did! I am pretty sure its not, at this point. Here is an interesting youtube video of a golden eagle killing a roe deer:
I did not know that the PLANET EARTH series has been made available in sections like this online. On the original DVD set, MOUNTAINS is a single episode. I checked the link and it does not appear that the section I am talking about is available for viewing. I have the DVD set, however, so we can watch it sometime if you'd like.
If you like the PLANET EARTH series, you'd love the new LIFE episodes which is like PLANET EARTH continued... My favorite so far has been the REPTILES episode. There are some incredible closeups of stuff like the hydrophobic gecko, Komodo dragons and the tongues of chameleons in super-slow motion.
Nature cinematography has become ridiculously advance. There is everything from cameras that allow you to see from the backs of eagles in flight, to super-slow motion shots using super-high-speed cameras that can record events that happen in a fraction of a fraction of a second!
Here is an awesome clip of the new cams used on birds of prey, in the beginning you can see footage from a peregrine falcon, then a northern goshawk plunging through the forest, and finally the golden eagle soaring. Soooo cool!