There are few people who would disagree when I say that a bald eagle is truly a breathtaking sight. Sadly, there are just that very few who don’t see their majesty and instead see a target. Today’s book is Beauty and the Beak: how science, technology and a 3-D printed beak rescued a bald eagle by Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp.
The story starts at the beginning of the eagle’s life, with her hatching as a fuzzy grey chick, to her first flight and then reaching maturity. One day when she was about four years old though, someone shot the eagle, destroying the top of her beak and damaging her eye. For some eagles, this would have led to death, but Beauty, as she became known, was found by a police officer who took her to a wildlife center.
While the wildlife center was able to bandage her wounds and give her antibiotics to prevent infection, they were ultimately unable to keep Beauty in their care. Beauty’s beak had not regrow so she couldn’t return to the wild. Janie Veltkamp took Beauty to her raptor center in Idaho and began telling people about Beauty’s story. An engineer heard one of Janie’s talks and had an idea of how to help Beauty.
Thanks to technology, Janie and the engineer were able to create a prosthetic beak for Beauty. It was carefully fitted and adjusted to fit Beauty in a 3 hour procedure.
Beauty was able to once again preen her feathers, and she could eat and drink almost normally (her meat had to be precut into strips).
Beauty’s beak has begun to regrow. It is made of keratin like human fingernails. Her prosthetic beak no longer fits and so she remains in the raptor center. No one knows if her beak will fully regenerate, so she relies on her human caretakers for now. Janie is keeping close measurements and records of the beak’s regeneration to provide scientific data that we just haven’t had before.
I was very excited to get this book! It is written in a simple and straightforward way. I think that when it gets an Accelerated Reader level, it will be in the third grade range. I plan to read it to third grade later this year when they are focusing on animals.
I learned a lot from the additional back matter the book includes. I didn’t know that young bald eagles are mostly brown and don’t grow their white feathers on their heads and black feathers on their bodies until they are mature. The back matter covers the adaptations that help the eagles like their feet, feathers, wings and bone structure. It also talks about the near extinction eagles faced in the 1960s and 1970s. Kids today probably have never heard of DDT and it’s effects on eagle eggs.
I hope that reading books like this with children will help prevent more tragic injuries to these majestic birds.