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Idaho Bald Eagle With Prosthetic Beak Featured On National Geographic Channel

Glen Hush
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Beauty the bald eagle was the first bird to receive a prosthetic beak in 2008, created from a 3D printer.

Raptor biologist Janie Veltkamp met Beauty in 2007. Beauty is a 14-year-old bald eagle, and back then the bird was struggling to survive. She had been illegally shot in the wild, and lost her upper beak from the trauma. Without her upper beak – which is vital to eating – she wasn’t expected to live very long.

But Veltkamp – who is the founder and director of Birds of Prey Northwest in northern Idaho – had an idea. The former nurse wondered if creating and attaching a prosthetic beak could help Beauty.

A year and a half later, a team attached the first 3D-printed prosthetic beak to Beauty's head. Veltkamp says the bird’s unique temperament helped a lot.

“Bald eagles in captivity can be quite nervous and high strung," she says. "Beauty has a very calm temperament for such a bird and it’s one of the reasons I decided to take on her case. It’s not very scientific but she seems to have a sense that we’re trying to help her.”  

The biologist says Beauty is not just a good test subject. Veltkamp says the bird is an example of the dangers posed by illegal poachers on bald eagles. Although her prosthetic beak helps her feed and take care of herself, Beauty will never be able to live in the wild.

Now, more people will get the chance to hear Beauty’s story. The bird will be featured in an episode of "Unlikely Animal Friends" on the National Geographic channel April 30.

Find Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

Copyright 2016 Boise State Public Radio


Frankie Barnhill was the Senior Producer of Idaho Matters, Boise State Public Radio's daily show and podcast.

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