The golden eagle is considered one of the most powerful predators in the avian world, and after watching this video, it's easy to see why.

While shooting for the film Brothers of the Wind, cameraman Omar Penker and the crew of Terra Mater productions witnessed something unbelievable playing out in the European Alps: a golden eagle taking on a chamois (a goat-antelope native to the continent). 

"Out there in the wilderness the most important thing for me is to show wildlife in its natural behaviour,” Penker explains in this making-of video. "It's all about being in the right place at the right time. This situation, for every wildlife cameraman, is probably comparable with winning an Olympic gold medal.”

The clip of the hunt has taken a bit of heat on social media, with some questioning its authenticity, and expressing concerns about whether the eagle was a trained bird that ended up getting seriously hurt during the incident.

Penker, however, explains that while the cinematic shot of the bird swooping over the camera does indeed feature an animal that had been trained by a falconer, the hunt sequence itself does not show a trained eagle, and was not scripted. 

Issues of authenticity aside, the sheer power of the bird is undeniable. Golden eagles have a number of hunting strategies in their repertoire, depending on what sort of animal is in their sights. In the case of chamois, the birds pursue their victim until they can dig their talons into its back or neck. 

"Unless the prey is knocked to the ground immediately, the eagle rides if for several minutes with wings outstretched and flapping in order to maintain balance and until the quarry finally collapses, either as a result of exhaustion, shock or internal injury," writes Jeff Watson in his book, The Golden Eagle. 

Since chamois are pretty challenging opponents and the risk of injury is high, eagles target them only when other prey is scarce. The antelopes are skilled runners and can reach speeds of 50 kilometres per hour, even on jagged downhill slopes. They've been known to jump up to two metres into the air and can cover six metres with each bound.

In this case, the bird may have been a young and inexperienced hunter, and it's possible the dangerous tumble down the cliff face was a costly miscalculation. Both animals reportedly survived the ordeal, but we can't imagine they left the scene without some serious injuries.  


Top header image: PRObulbocode909, Flickr