Throughout history the Eagle has been a primary symbol of grandeur, military might and authority. The Imperial Eagle of Southern Europe, the Bald Eagle of North America and the Martial Eagle of Africa, have inspired countless national emblems and have been adopted as corporate symbols for strength, speed and vision.

I remember waking up on the banks of the Zambezi River to the haunting cry of a fish eagle. Just then I saw the fish eagle extend his legs far forward as he prepared to snare a fish, then the talons broke the surface of the water impaling a fish. As the eagle flapped his powerful wings, he snapped his talons to the rear and soared gracefully into the air carrying his catch in his talons as he flew to a nearby perch for breakfast.

The precision and efficiency with which this eagle caught this fish was impressive. I immediately thought of the Words of our Lord Jesus when He had challenged Peter: “Follow Me, and I will make you a fisher of men.”(Mark 1:17)

10A visit to the Eagle Encounter at the Spier Wine Estate is a fascinating and never-to-be-forgotten experience. Hank and Tracy Chalmers have been running the Eagle Encounter since it started 4 years ago. Having been brought up by a father who himself was a falconer, Hank has over 30 years experience in working with birds of prey. His wife, Tracy, has been devoted to eagles and other raptors for over 13 years.

The Eagle Encounter seeks to rehabilitate birds of prey, including eagles, owls, kestrels, kites and goshawks that have been injured, poisoned, shot or hit by cars. Wherever possible the rehabilitated birds are reintroduced back into the wild. While these big birds are being healed, they are using the Eagle Encounter to educate the public concerning these amazing creatures.

Although some farmers have a negative view about birds of prey, they are an asset to any farm. The average barn owl family kills about 2,000 rodents a year. The kites, goshawks and kestrels are extremely efficient at killing insects and rodents.

The hearing of a barn owl is highly specialized. Their face resembles two ears joined together. In fact, their ears are at different levels to enable the barn owl to triangulate sound with precision. National Geographic claims that a barn owl can hear a mouse’s heartbeat at 20 metres!

2We use “eagle-eyed” as a metaphor for excellent vision. In fact, eagles have the best eyesight on the planet. The average eagle has an eyesight capability 8 to 12 times better than humans. Their colour spectrum greatly exceeds ours. Kestrels have an ultra-violet capability, enabling them to even spot rat urine at night. National Geographic claims that, were they able to read, Eagles could read a newspaper’s print at 300 metres. Eagles typically fly far out of sight, thousands of feet up in the sky from where they can still clearly identify their prey. A vulture hit an aeroplane at 17,000 feet.

The peregrine falcon is reputed to be the fastest living creature. Peregrine falcons can reach speeds exceeding 200 miles per hour when plummeting to the kill. Eagles have a transparent membrane, which not only lubricates their eyes, something like windscreen wipers, but can serve as the equivalent of goggles to protect their sensitive eyes while diving at high speed through the air. Some eagles have an ability to zoom in with something like a telephoto lens magnifying capability. What to us may seem like a blur across our vision would be quite clear to an eagle who sees in many more time frames per second than we do.

8The talons of a martial or black eagle would be longer than a grown man’s hand, longer than the claws of a lion.

The talons of a crown eagle have been recorded in a pressure test as being capable of exerting 480 pounds per square inch. When that kind of pressure is applied on a point like the tip of your pencil it can go through anything it wants. Eagles talons have a vice like grip. They can crack skulls and break bones with ease. It is not common for an eagle to stoop, but if it does it would be around 200km/h, making an instant kill with whatever prey it hits.

As my children and I were introduced by the Chalmers to these majestic birds, which were their patients and students, we were impressed. The God who created these majestic eagles has put something of his character and capabilities in them. If the Eagle can fly so high, see so clearly, plummet so speedily, imagine how clearly the Creator who made them sees?

If an eagle from thousands of feet up in the sky can spot a snake or rat, camouflaged on the ground, just imagine how clearly the Creator sees you and I?

If a barn owl can hear a mouse’s heartbeat at 20 metres, imagine how clearly the Creator can hear even the thoughts of our heart?

9If a peregrine falcon can plummet to its prey at 200 kms an hour, imagine how swiftly the Creator can bring judgment or deliverance?

If an eagle’s talons have such power to crush bones, imagine the power of the Hand of God?

At Mount Sinai, before giving the children of Israel the Ten Commandments, God said: “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles wings…” Exodus 19:4

“As an eagle stirs up its nest, hovers over its young, spreading out its wings, taking them up, carrying them its wings, so the Lord alone led His people…” Deuteronomy 32:11 – 12

When we see these majestic creatures we should be inspired by the words of Isaiah 40:31 “But those who wait on the Lord, shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

If you want to learn more about Eagles and how we can help protect them from encroachments on their habitat, and threats such as poison and being hit by cars, or if you need to deliver an injured bird of prey for rehabilitation, contact:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or phone             (021) 858-1826      .

Do visit their website: www.eagle-encounters.co.za and do be sure to visit Eagle Encounters at Spier, Lynedoch Road (R310) Stellenbosch.

Dr. Peter Hammond
Frontline Fellowship
Cape Town
South Africa




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