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A few years ago, an Alaskan Bald Eagle was shot in the face, disfiguring her and obliterating the upper half of her beak. Rescue workers tried to rehabilitate the bird, whom they named Beauty, in hopes that her beak would grow back. It did not. Beaks are essential for preening feathers and feeding, and Beauty’s future was looking grim. Lucky for Beauty, she was taken under the care of Idaho raptor specialist Jane Cantwell, who spoke of Beauty’s case during an educational talk she was giving. In the audience happened to be mechanical engineer Nate Calvin, who was moved by the story and inspired to help. In the first attempt to create a prosthetic beak, Calvin made a mold of the missing upper beak, laser-scanned it, fine-tuned it in a 3D modeling program, and created the prosthesis of a nylon-based polymer.

The procedure to implant the prosthesis is likened to fitting a patient with dentures, and there was a dentist on-hand to help. They started by placing a metal mount on Beauty’s existing beak, much like how a dentist would fit a post for a crown to anchor. Then the prosthetic was fitted on, and amazingly Beauty was able to preen and drink water that night.

This story is not exactly breaking news, but it is definitely an unlikely and inspiring tale of engineering to the rescue!

Here is a video profiling the case:

You can also learn more on Cantwell’s site, as well as Calvin’s.

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Goli Mohammadi

I’m senior editor at MAKE and have worked on MAKE magazine since the first issue. I’m a word nerd who particularly loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon as a whole. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for the ideal alpine lake or hunting for snow to feed my inner snowboard addict.

The maker movement provides me with endless inspiration, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. The specific beat I cover is art, and I’m a huge proponent of STEAM (as opposed to STEM). After all, the first thing most of us ever made was art.

Contact me at goli (at) makermedia (dot) com.


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Comments

  1. Indeed not. I remember seeing this story on NBC Nightly News, and was pleased to see that she survived everything.

  2. That is not bionic. That is prosthetic.

    1. Goli Mohammadi says:

      I stand corrected James — this is not technically bionic. Apologies — my love of alliteration got the best of me here :)

      1. It a fantastic accomplishment. I wonder if one could sedate the animal and scan its beak in 3D to create a more accurate, custom prosthesis.

    2. Grey says:

      Bionic is defined as having artificial body parts.

      While this tends to have more emphasis on mechanical parts, it is not required. You are correct that the beak is a prosthesis, but it is still technically bionic. :)

      Just throwing in a random bit of info from an engineering student. Have fun. :D

  3. Aaron Hilton says:

    It’s amazing to hear about the variety of technologies used to make the prosthesis. But yeah, it’s not a bionic thing. Great story though. Glad I got to read up about it, and it’s inspiring for my interest in prosthetic fabrication techniques. Especially liked how his own personal dentist got involved. Way to go team!

  4. [...] the piece Beauty’s Bionic Bald Eagle Beak, James Patrick remarks: It a fantastic accomplishment. I wonder if one could sedate the animal and [...]

  5. mike says:

    i love this story..any idea of how she is doing today?

  6. really great story,,, good people,, and a worthy bird,

  7. Pelt says:

    Someone shot the flag animal – what a drama! Spearing war and death, disregard millions living in poverty. ‘Merica fuck yeah.

    1. Grey says:

      Someone shot a helpless creature in the face and folks did their best to help it recover.

      Species was simply a detail, not the story. Grow up a bit.

    2. Aaron says:

      Reese58 please don’t feed the trolls (Pelt).

      The tactic is to never get angry at them, rather engage in supportive dialogue directly with the parent poster with your more positive view. This way trolls get buried in good comments. Eventually the trolls either wise up or get bored and leave.

  8. [...] Beauty’s Bionic Bald Eagle Beak (makezine.com) [...]

  9. Fran Cording says:

    This was in 2008. Any news on how Beauty has done since then?

  10. candey says:

    sooo sad but cute

  11. Heph says:

    Everytime i see this kind of prothesis (seen one on a Japanese Stork and a German Swan in the last years) it makes me smile. It shows the great humility and respect for our fellow being.

  12. Andy says:

    I think that is a wonderful story. I only hope something suitably nasty happened to the B**tard that did it.

  13. craig klingler says:

    Great comment Aaron, Screw Pelt. I’m no tree hugger but this story made me feel go.Cag

  14. [...] Beauty’s Bionic Bald Eagle Beak (makezine.com) [...]

  15. lilly says:

    Absolutely beautiful story. I am so glad there are individuals out there who take their love of animals and their talents, and create a better, stabler life for mistreated animals and birds alike.

  16. […] Beauty the Bald Eagle got a prosthetic beak a few years back. Just think what it will do for human rhinoplasty. […]

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