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Kidnapping Bird of Prey

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And if you think the baby's crying is bad, you should hear the ornithologists.

A very old, but still popular animal stereotype: a large predatory bird (usually an eagle or vulture) picks up a child or small animal from the ground and carries it off to its nest to be eaten.

This is mostly an Urban Legend, since anything weighing more than four pounds is far too heavy to be carried off by most of these birds, making this a case of Artistic License – Ornithology (especially if the bird in question is a vulture, since they don't generally go after live prey in the first place!). They prefer to Vertically Kidnap smaller animals. That said, there have been a handful of cases throughout history where babies or little children were merely attacked by large birds, and some eagles are perfectly capable of killing prey too large to actually carry off.

In general, it's also rare for raptors to carry off live prey, as the struggling victim would make flying difficult and potentially injure the raptor as it tries to free itself. Birds of prey typically kill their prey in the initial attack, and then either eat it on the ground or carry off the carcass.


Depending on the situation, this may be justified in-universe by the abductees being small enough for a bird of prey to realistically carry off — this may prove a real danger for Lilliputians, Talking Animals and people hit by a Shrink Ray — and/or the bird of prey just being very, very large.

Pterosaurs often take on this role in prehistoric settings, in spite of the fact that not only were most of them also too light to carry off even a child, they didn't even have grasping feet!

Subtrope of Feathered Fiend. Not to be confused with Raptor Attack. Contrast with Noble Bird of Prey. The Roc Birds have their own trope. If the bird is simply waiting for a person to die instead of actively carrying them off, that's Circling Vultures.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • Pokémon:
    • Wild Skarmory do this every now and then in the Pokémon anime. On one occasion, one of them kidnapped May and dropped her in a place that was forbidden to humans. The real threat wasn't the Skarmory, but rather the other hostile Pokémon in the area. Ash was also carried off by an Aerodactyl in Attack of the Prehistoric Pokemon.
    • In Pokémon Adventures, the Masked Man had Ho-Oh kidnap about a half-dozen young kids so he could raise them as his minions. Green, in particular, developed a phobia of birds due to this.
    • In the show's Johto loveletter subseries The Legendof Thunder Jimmy's Beedrill grabs, holds, and carries [1] Marina while flying. Somewhat fittingly an evil Skarmory is after them.

    Comic Books 
  • In Amulet, during a wyvern attack, one of them carries Miskit and Cogsley off, taking them back to its nest. They're thankfully later rescued by Vigo, but not before a baby wyvern has imprinted on Cogsley.
  • Nero:
    • In the album "De Bende van de Zwarte Kous", a vulture picks up the child Petoetje and carries him off.
    • The same happens to Nero's son, Adhemar, in the album "De Lolifanten".
    • In the album "De Vliegende Handschoen", various friends of Nero, including adults (!) are kidnapped by his pet eagle.
    • In the album "De Ring van Balderic" a statue of an eagle comes to life and carries off the little boy Clo-Clo.
  • In Tintin, in the album Tintin and the Prisoners of the Sun, a large condor catches Tintin's dog, Snowy. Tintin actually climbs to the bird's nest in the mountains to rescue his dog.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Comic Cavalcade: In "The Vulture's Nest" giant vultures grab Etta Candy and Mimi right off their horses, though these vultures are later revealed to be humans wearing suits.
    • Volume 1: In the Impossible Tales Wonder Girl story in #107 Ronno the merboy gets grabbed by the giant Roc that lives on a spire near Paradise Island and Diana has to rescue him from the bird.

    Comic Strips 
  • Charles Addams did a strip where an adult human is being carried off in this fashion from a beach.. with the guy's wife running along underneath yelling up at him to drop the keys to their car.
  • The Far Side: One strip has a gopher-type critter being carried off by a raptor, with an onlooking survivor yelling the victim's name in despair.
  • Popeye: The Sea Hag has a giant vulture who picks up people and flies them to her.

    Films — Animated 
  • In An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, there is a slightly altered version as Fievel is chased by a hawk whose first attempt to grab him fails and Fievel escapes into a burrow. Unfortunately, while backing away to the entrance from the scorpion within the burrow, the hawk this time catches Fievel and carries him off.
  • In Brave, after Lord Fergus and the other lords end up on the roof (with no bear) after a bear hunt through the castle, this trope is discussed when one of the lords sarcastically suggests that the bear was "carried away by a giant birdie".
  • In Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor, a roc carries Olive Oyl away. It later takes Popeye to a volcano to kill him, but Popeye wins out and roasts the bird.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Arachnophobia, the original jungle spider is picked up by a crow and carried across town from the funeral parlor to a nearby farm. The crow drops dead out of the sky, fatally bitten by its prey, and the spider crawls away unhurt.
  • In The In-Laws, Peter Falk's character (Vince) tells a long story at dinner about giant Guatemalan tsetse flies carrying away children in their beaks.
    Sheldon: Beaks? Flies with beaks?
  • In Jurassic Park III, a Pteranodon carries off a human boy.
  • In the sequel to the above film, Jurassic World, we have a flock of Pteranodons doing this to people in the titular park's most populated area, as well as the baby dinosaurs housed in the nearby petting zoo. A particularly horrifying variant of this trope (possibly as a shout out to the above One Million Years BC example) happens to Claire's assistant, Zara, who is not only carried off, fought over, and dropped into a large body of water, but is also repeatedly dunked in the water by yet another Pteranodon and finally eaten alive by a giant Mosasaurus that had her sights on the Pteranodon.
  • Happens briefly in the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers movie. A Tengu Warrior picks up Kimberly with its feet and carries her across the battlefield, but drops her soon afterward.
  • In the fantasy film Na Cha and the Seven Devils, one of the titular devils, the Eagle, morphs himself to his giant eagle form at one point to kidnap a child with his talons.
  • A fairly famous example is One Million Years B.C., in which a Pteranodon does this to Loana the cavewoman, who is then freed (but injured) when the Pteranodon fights with another pterosaur.
  • It happened on film as early as 1907 in Edwin S. Porter's "Rescued from an Eagle Nest". (See image above.)
  • In Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, the Pterodactyl Ghost takes Patrick away from Velma.
  • In Willow, an eagle ridden by a brownie kidnaps the infant princess that Willow is trying to protect.
  • In The Wizard of Oz, the Flying Monkeys of the Wicked Witch of the West kidnap Dorothy and Toto by swooping down, picking them up and carrying them away through the air.

  • While not shown in The Cold Moons, it is mentioned that particularly hungry birds are known to carry off with young badger cubs (especially ones under a moon old).
  • In one of The Draco Tavern stories there's a species of flying aliens that does this — they don't mean to harm anyone and just put the child down after a short distance; it's just a tradition from their predatory days. This behaviour however causes an understandable amount of alarm until they're convinced to do it as part of a theme park attraction, with children wearing special harnesses who've paid for the experience.
  • In Dream Park, guide Kasan Maibang is nearly carried off by a giant hornbill early in the South Seas Treasure Game.
  • In Firstborn, one of the wolf pups, a runt named Rider, is taken by an owl.
  • Set up then subverted in the novel version of Jurassic Park; a Cearadactylus attempts to do this to Lex, but then Reality Ensues and it finds that she's too heavy for it to carry.
  • Christopher Hart's Manga Mania: Fantasy Worlds has a couple of pages in the "Fantasy Monsters" section wherein he shows a step-by-step of creating creatures like this. They're depicted as big green humanoid monsters with birdlike features. It also features a splash panel of the classic image of a mother bird monster holding the (presumed) hero over her nest while her nestlings screech loudly, begging for food.
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH: In the first sequel, the mouse Timmy Frisby is briefly snatched up (and injured in the process, though not fatally thanks to the quick thinking of his rat friend Racso) by an owl, until he yells his full name. The owl then drops him, since it was positively acquainted with his mother, whom it soon finds and apologizes to for its actions, mistakenly believing it had accidentally killed Timmy.
  • Discussed in Swindle; one of the In-Universe theories about the Rockford house is that it's cursed by a baby that was carried off and killed by a chicken hawk. The curse apparently causes Rapid Aging of some sort.
  • The Thinking Machine: This is proposed as a solution to the vanishing of Baby Blake in "The Disappearance of Baby Blake". Van Dusen shoots the idea down by pointing out that no eagle found in the local area would have the strength to lift a two year old. Of course, the real solution turns out to be stranger (and even less likely).
  • Warrior Cats: Raptorial birds appear as dangerous foes on a number of occasions. Justified, as the main characters are feral cats and regular-sized hawks and eagles really are dangerous potential predators from their point of view:
    • Snowkit gets kidnapped by a hawk despite his mom, Speckletail, trying to get him back. In large part, this was due to his deafness preventing him from hearing the rest of the Clan warning him about the hawk.
    • In Sign of the Moon, Jayfeather acts as bait for an eagle to steal, so that the Ancients can learn how to hunt them. At the end of the book, Swoop, a Tribe cat, is taken by an eagle while saving one of the Tribe Invaders.
    • In the first Dawn of the Clans book, The Sun Trail, it even happens to an adult cat, Bright Stream, while travelling through the mountains. It didn't help that she was pregnant.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Beverly Hillbillies: In the first episode, "The Clampetts Strike Oil", Granny thinks a giant bird is carrying off a man. It's really a helicopter lowering down a geologist.
  • Kamen Rider Double has a "supercharged" example with the Quetzalcoatlus Dopant, a giant bird-like Monster of the Week in Episode 35. Doctor Isaka sets one after Nagi, a bird-guide at the Fuuto zoo and the person who's meant to use the Quetzalcoatlus Memory, in order to further instill fear in her heart by showing her the monster that the Memory will turn her into. And he uses it on an unsuspecting parrot, who immediately grabs Nagi by her backpack. It takes Kamen Rider Double and Accel's Gunner-A unit working together to save Nagi from the Dopant's grasp and defeat it. (And the parrot flies away, completely unharmed.)

  • In Greek mythology, Zeus kidnapped Ganymedes in the form of an eagle, although not for the purpose of eating.
  • There are a lot of airborne monstrosities in mythology that are happy to do this; dragons, rocs and thunderbirds are particularly noteworthy examples.

    Urban Legends 
  • The Lawndale Incident. On July 25, 1977, as the story goes, a ten-year-old boy named Marlon Lowe was playing outside his home when a pair of gigantic birds flew overhead. One of them swooped down and snatched Marlon up, carried him a few feet, and then dropped him unharmed onto the ground after his mother chased after it shouting. It's hard to say how likely this incident is to have happened; skeptics have suggested that the bird that "carried" Marlon may have actually been a normal raptor that he had mistakenly believed to be larger than it was due to the perspective. Curiously, the description of the birds in question nigh-perfectly matches that of the Andean condor, right down to the wingspan (ten feet). However, it doesn't quite add up even then, as condor talons are neither strong enough to carry a human nor shaped for grasping the way that, say, an eagle's talons are. Also, needless to say, the Andean condor is not native to the Midwestern United States.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The original Monster Manual had an illustration of a roc, which conveyed scale by depicting it in the act of carrying off a live elephant.
    • The solo D&D module "Eye of the Serpent" started with this trope, as the player character is scooped up by a roc and dropped off in its nest on a mountaintop. The adventure itself consists of finding a safe way back down.

    Theme Parks 

  • In Far Cry 4 the local eagles hunt by carrying a live animal up high and then dropping it to its death. Though they don't try this with humans (merely swooping down and clawing viciously,) they are apparently strong enough to carry a struggling mountain goat.
  • In King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder!, Graham gets kidnapped by a Roc. Funnily enough, he's rescued by an eagle he'd befriended earlier in the same fashion.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The plot of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker begins when Link's sister is carried off by the massive plumed vulture, Helmaroc King.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has a more benevolent example. After climbing Death Mountain as a child, Link meets a large owl named Kaepora Gaebora, who offers him a shortcut back down. If the player accepts, Link will be lifted up and flown down the mountain, to be dropped off at Kakariko Village at the base.
  • In an old educational PC game Odel Lake, one of the ways for your fish to die was by being caught and eaten by an osprey if you failed to dive to deep water quickly enough.
  • Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time has the Pterosaurs in Jurassic Marsh. They will grab a standard-size zombie, fly it over to the square closest to the house, then turn it around, allowing the zombie to eat your defences from behind. If charmed by the Perfume-Shroom, a Pterosaur will instead grab a zombie and fly away with it for a One-Hit Kill.
  • Pyre actually provides a romantic version of this trope, when Hedwyn tells the tale of how, after meeting on the battlefield and falling in Love at First Sight, his Harp sweetheart grabbed him and flew away with him.
  • In one stage of RiME, there's a large bird-like monster that will snatch the protagonist if he stays out in the open too long.
  • In Seiklus, atop the tree in the first area you can get snatched by a large eagle who will then drop you off at the rim of volcano.
  • Super Smash Bros doesn't have a "natural" example but uses one in the "beetle" item that takes the grabbed fighter away. Somewhat fittingly the damsels of their respective series are taken away faster than the males who either kidnap them or save them.
  • Arietta has one of her pets pull this on Luke in Tales of the Abyss. It works the first time; the second attempt is met with a burst of flame courtesy of Mieu.
  • Gray Mann in Team Fortress 2 was carried off by a eagle shortly after he and his brothers were born. It's slightly inverted, as Gray's father was about to kill him just before the eagle came by, and said eagle raised Gray as its own child until Gray killed and ate all of the eagles.

  • In Latchkey Kingdom, Baron Boron's servant is carried off by the Feenix while he's trying to hunt it. His reaction is disappointment that he'll have to find some replacement help.
  • Pixie and Brutus: One comic opens with a hawk swooping down to grab the oblivious Pixie as she admires a flower... only for Brutus to grab it in his mouth mid-swoop and carry it off-panel.
  • Scurry: In Chapter 3, the mouse Pict attempts to hide from a group of hungry cats inside a fallen birdhouse. This by and large works fine, until an eagle swoops down from the sky, grabs the birdhouse in its talons, and carries it and Pict away.
  • In Yokoka's Quest, in Kalliv's flashback dream, while he's in mouse form he gets snatched away by a hawk-wolf, and is only dropped because a boar-mandrill attacks the hawk-wolf.

    Web Original 
  • A video of a golden eagle attempting to snatch a child from a Montreal park. It was later revealed to have been created as a student project, but not before becoming an Internet sensation, amassing ten million views in a little over 24 hours.
  • Chorocojo's character Sammy, from the Pokemon: Fire Red series, is eventually revealed to have become a shut-in Gamer Chick Otaku Surrogate after being nearly carried off by a Skarmory as a child. She hates large bird Pokemon as a result, especially Skarmory.
  • The French animated short Inka Bola has a small child abducted by a large bird and brought to its nest... only to have the child eat them all in the credits.
  • Tetrapod Zoology covered this in its very first post. The conclusion was that a large eagle could definitely kill a small child, but not carry one off.

    Western Animation 
  • Happens to BMO in Adventure Time.
  • One episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender saw Momo carried off by a buzzard-wasp. Said buzzard-wasp was struck down by Aang mere moments later.
  • In Bilby, an albatross chick is snatched by what appears to be a white-bellied sea eagle.
  • Early in the Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels episode "Cavey's Mexicali 500", Captain Caveman is dreaming that he and Taffy are on a small island when a giant bird seizes Taffy and flies off with her. Cavey flies off to rescue her, and then his alarm clock bird interrupts his dream.
  • Double subverted in an episode of Courage the Cowardly Dog. A gigantic bird carries Muriel off, seemingly wanting to eat her, but it turns out she just wanted Muriel to look after her hatchlings while she [the mother bird] was away. The double subversion comes when she threatens to eat Muriel if she comes back to find that anything bad happened to her babies.
  • Danger Mouse: Penfold is plucked by an eagle (The Odd Ball Runaround) who mistakes the football he's holding for him stealing one of its eggs.
  • In the pilot episode of Darkwing Duck, Taurus Bulba has a pet condor, which he uses to kidnap Heartwarming Orphan Gosalyn.
  • In the Futurama episode "A Clockwork Origin", Fry gets carried off by a robotic Pteranodon. Although it attempts to feed Fry to its mechanical offspring, he survives the experience.
  • In Jonny Quest, Turu the Pteranodon is used by the villain of the episode to kidnap Amazonian villagers to work in his mine.
  • A more realistic example in The Lion Guard. The villain of the episode "Ono and the Egg" is an African harrier-hawk named Mpishi who invades the Pride Lands (where hawks or harrier-hawks are not allowed in as they do not have a territory there) searching for rare prey to carry off and eat, with said prey being small animals such as hyraxes and hares. Near the end of the episode, she carries off the newborn chick of Kulinda the hamerkop making it a literal kidnapping, but she gets stopped by the combined might of Ono and Kulinda.
  • Mighty Mouse cartoon "Gypsy Life" does this with bats, as bats swoop down on a caravan of mice and one of them carries the pretty girl mouse away. Mighty Mouse comes to the rescue, of course.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Pinkie Apple Pie", there's a minor Running Gag where the Apple family and Pinkie drop something they need in the water while rafting down a river, the object is grabbed an animal, and the animal is immediately snatched away by a bald eagle. The first example is fairly realistic — a fish grabs the group's map and is carried off — and the second more exaggerated — their spare wheel falls in the water, a duck puts its head through the spokes, and the eagle grabs the wheel's rim and carries it and the duck away.
  • The Popeye two-reeler Popeye Meets Sindbad The Sailor has our hero thrown to Sindbad's giant vulture who flies off with him to a distant island. Popeye returns, having turned the vulture into so much roast chicken.
  • Transformers Generation One:
    • In Dinobot Island, Spike is caught in this way by a Dimorphodon. Swoop has to save him.
    • Laserbeak often picks up and carries people off, though to bring them to Megatron, not to feed them to anybody.
    • Conversely, the Animated version of Swoop kidnapped Sari this way when Prometheus Black forced the Dinobots to become his minions.

    Real Life 
  • The Taung Child, the fossilized skull of an early hominid, was discovered to have been killed by an eagle.
  • There is at least one legitimate Truth in Television instance of this happening. In 1978, a seven-year-old boy in Zambia was attacked by an African crowned eagle (the same species believe to have killed the Taung Child mentioned above). The boy only survived because the eagle was killed by a passing farmer. A search of the nearby forest found no evidence of a nest, meaning the attack was almost certainly predatory in nature.
  • The extinct Haast's eagle of New Zealand hunted moas, flightless birds weighing 15 times as much as itself. If Maori accounts of its behavior are to be believed, it likely preyed on humans as well.
  • The Woodward's eagle was a North American eagle species that isn't as well known as the Haast's eagle, but was nearly as big— it was somewhat heavier than a modern-day harpy eagle, with a 9-foot wingspan. It may have been the inspiration for the Thunderbirds seen in Native American mythology.
  • It's more common for this to happen to pets than to children; it's advised not to let a small dog out unattended where there are hawks or eagles, since a fenced-in yard, as good as it is for preventing some forms of harm to your dog, won't actually stop a bird. Great horned owls have a particular taste for cats, and are potentially large enough to carry off a small kitten. Of course, they generally kill the cat first, unlike this trope's usual depictions.
  • Female harpy eagles catch live prey like sloths and monkeys up to 20 pounds. Theoretically they could carry off a small child, but there's no record of them actually attacking humans.


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