The Most Salacious Crime Story of 2023 Involves Eagles and Kidnapping

By which we mean eagles that kidnapped another bird

Bald eagle
Bald eagles have an unsettling side, it turns out.

There’s something unsettling going on near Santa Clara, California — one that involves kidnapping, violence and death in the midst of some of the country’s most scenic landscapes. Under slightly different circumstances, this is the kind of situation that one could see inspiring a true crime podcast or salacious tell-all book. After all, it involves a couple kidnapping one of a pair of siblings and killing the other, and creating an unsettling new family all their own.

Why isn’t this being adapted as a prestige television miniseries? Well, for starters, there’s the fact that it involves birds. As Susanne Rust reports for the Los Angeles Times, a young red-tailed hawk nicknamed Tuffy was abducted by a pair of bald eagles, who killed his sibling while they were at it. Now, they’re raising Tuffy as their own, though their own offspring doesn’t seem thrilled by the whole situation.

Birdwatchers are, as one might guess, enthralled by this narrative. One of the experts Rust spoke with for the article has a theory that’s a bit less Bonnie and Clyde and more Hannibal in its implications. Researcher Cheryl Dykstra told Rust that, based on Dykstra’s reading of scientific literature on the subject, “researchers have always concluded that the nestling hawk was delivered as prey, but was still alive.”

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Still, even without the potentially salacious elements of this narrative, the idea of birds of one species raising a young animal of a different species — especially one that, as in this situation, has a rivalry with them — is especially intriguing. This isn’t the first time bald eagles have ended up raising a red-tailed hawk; it’s a mystery that has scientists and birth enthusiasts equally enraptured.

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