Watch ‘Challenger’ The Bald Eagle Soar into a Football Stadium in Most American Video Ever

Bald eagle sores over stadium with blurred crowd in the background
A-Z Animals/

Written by Angie Menjivar

Updated: October 22, 2023

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This video starts with roaring applause. A man with his arm outstretched wearing an animal handling glove releases a bald eagle inside a football stadium. The stadium is not completely enclosed, and you can see the clear, light sky behind the view of the bird.

The applause continues as the video switches over to a different camera view. This view is from the bald eagle’s back. It’s like you’re a tiny person riding it like a horse. It’s definitely not the type of view you would get to enjoy on any other occasion.

This day was special. It was November 23, 2014. It was a ‘Salute to Service’ game between the Texans and the Bangles. The purpose of placing a camera on this bald eagle’s back is to show the public what it’s like to soar like an eagle.

Aerial view of football stadium

Aerial view of a football stadium.

It’s an educational wild eagle. Most people don’t know just how important or incredibly majestic these creatures are and with this display, the public gets to learn a little bit more.

The bald eagle’s name is Challenger. It’s a non-releasable bald eagle that the American Eagle Foundation cares for. It’s 25 years old! They consider him the ambassador for his species. This isn’t his first time soaring over a stadium.

He’s been doing this work for education and awareness since 1991. Sometimes, you can find him in all ballrooms, and sometimes, he even makes visits to classrooms. You might wonder why Challenger is a non-releasable bird.

When he was only five weeks old, he was blown from his nest. The people who spotted him couldn’t leave him and with their good intentions, hand raised him. Since he was imprinted, he must remain under the care of humans. Imprinting refers to the process during which a bird or other animal begins identifying with its species.

Bald eagles don’t know they’re bald eagles when they’re born. During those first few critical weeks, they begin identifying with their parents. In Challenger’s case, he spent this critical period with humans. Therefore, he learned to identify with the human species.

As the video continues, you get an incredible view. It’s a little bit shaky at times. You can watch his head tilting to all sides as he follows through with his trainer’s direction. Then, you watch as he lands down on the trainer’s arm and chomps down on a treat.

Is It Normal For Bald Ealges to Be Kept in Captivity?

Bald eagle sores over stadium with blurred crowd in the background

The bald eagle is a symbol of American freedom.

Bald eagles are majestic birds, and a symbol of freedom in America. But, is it normal for them to be held in captivity? The answer is a bit more complex than a simple yes or no.

There are many reasons why a bald eagle may end up in captivity. For instance, if the bird becomes injured or orphaned, it may need to be rescued and placed in a rehabilitation center. Additionally, if an eagle is found to be in possession of illegal poachers, it may be taken and placed in a specialized facility.

In addition, zoos may take in bald eagles if they are part of a breeding program. This is an important step in helping to protect the species.

It is important to note that bald eagles are not typically kept in captivity for long. Once they have recovered from their injury, they are usually released back into the wild. This is the best-case scenario for these birds and allows them to live out their natural lives in the wild.

How Big Are Adult Bald Eagles?

American bald eagle with wings spread and perched on branch against background of Alaskan Kenai region shoreline along Cook Inlet

Bald eagles can have a wingspan up to eight feet across.

Adult bald eagles can reach impressive sizes. They typically have a wingspan of around 6 to 8 feet, and can weigh between 6 and 14 pounds. Moreover, their bodies can reach up to 3.2 feet in length.

These impressive birds can also have a variety of colors. Adult bald eagles typically have a white head and tail, with dark brown feathers covering their body.

At birth, bald eagles are much smaller. Newly hatched bald eagles are about 10 inches long and weigh only 3 to 4 ounces. As they grow, they will quickly reach a weight of up to 4 pounds.

As the bald eagle grows, its wingspan will grow too. A young bald eagle’s wingspan can reach up to 4 feet. By the time they reach adulthood, their wingspan can expand to a full 8 feet.

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About the Author

Angie Menjivar is a writer at A-Z-Animals primarily covering pets, wildlife, and the human spirit. She has 14 years of experience, holds a Bachelor's degree in psychology, and continues her studies into human behavior, working as a copywriter in the mental health space. She resides in North Carolina, where she's fallen in love with thunderstorms and uses them as an excuse to get extra cuddles from her three cats.

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