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'Ninja eagle' kicks like a mule

UK researchers have completed a mechanical study of the strike of the secretary bird - a large species that lives in sub-Saharan Africa and kicks its prey to death with remarkable agility.

A team from the Royal Veterinary College and Royal Holloway, University of London, studied a male secretary bird housed at the Hawk Conservancy Trust in Hampshire.

Using concealed force pads and a rubber snake, they found the bird's kick delivers a force up to six times its own weight, with a contact time of 15 milliseconds (0.015 seconds) - one-tenth of the blink of an eye.

Lead author of the study, physiologist Dr Steve Portugal, said he often describes the secretary birds as "ninja eagles on stilts".

  • 25 Jan 2016
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