An eagle named Darshan launched into flight yesterday (Mar. 14) from the top of the world’s tallest building, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa tower, with a live-stream camera strapped to its back. The minute-and-a-half-long flight over Dubai, organized by the advocacy group Freedom Conservation, offers vertiginous views of the city’s downtown.
The eagle, trained by a falconer in Thonon, France, descended a vertical distance of 2,700 feet (more than half a mile) to a fountain at the base of the building. Freedom Conservation, which arranged the stunt to highlight the plight of endangered eagles, claimed the flight set a world record for “highest-ever recorded bird flight from a man-made structure.”
Born in captivity, Darshan had never flown that high. But in the wild, many eagle species fly much higher on their own—the bald eagle, for example, glides at altitudes of up to 10,000 feet. The two highest-flying bird species on record are the endangered Ruppell’s griffon vulture, which has been spotted flying at 37,000 feet (the same height as a coasting commercial airplane), and the bar-headed goose, which has been seen flying over the Himalayas at heights of nearly 28,000 feet.
Darshan’s is not the longest bird flight recorded. In December 2013, a wild sea eagle stole a camera from wildlife rangers in Western Australia and recorded 70 miles of flight before losing interest in its prize and dropping the device. In other conservation awareness-raising stunts, Freedom Conservation has launched eagles from the Aiguille du Midi peak in the French Alps, over a hockey stadium in Geneva, Switzerland, and from Paris’s Eiffel Tower.