Beauty and the Beak: A Bald Eagle Rescue Story

When a bullet took her upper beak, Beauty the bald eagle would have starved. 3D printing and a dedicated caregiver changed all that.

An injured bird is always difficult to see. Dragging wings, broken legs… it’s just so distressing to see these injured earthbound creatures, knowing they long to soar in the sky. When Beauty the bald eagle was injured, though, it wasn’t her wing or leg that took the blow. Instead, a poacher’s bullet cost her most of her upper beak, a devastating injury that left her unable to eat or drink. It would have meant certain death, but Beauty’s life took a fortunate turn.

Beauty and the Beak Bald Eagle BookYou’ll find Beauty’s story in the children’s book Beauty and the Beak, by Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp. Jane came to Beauty’s rescue after the injured bald eagle was found trying to scavenge at a local dump. Jane, a certified wildlife rehabber, brought Beauty to Birds of Prey Northwest, a rehab facility in Idaho. There, she set out to find a way to help Beauty when everyone else thought the odds were unbeatable.

Birds beaks can regenerate, but only over long periods of time. Jane knew that for Beauty to survive, she needed a more urgent solution. The answer turned out to be technology. With the help of a team that included her own dentist, Jane oversaw the design and fitting of a prosthetic beak made with a 3D printer. Within hours of the procedure, Beauty was drinking water like any other bald eagle, scooping it up from her dish.

Over the years since her prosthesis was fitted in 2008, Beauty’s own beak has continued to regenerate. The original prosthesis no longer fits, but her beak is now large and sturdy enough to allow her to eat on her own. She still lives at Birds of Prey Northwest, where she enjoys her own large aviary.

Janie Veltkamp Glen Hush Bald EagleGlen Hush/USFWS
Glen Hush/USFWS Jane Veltkamp holding Beauty

Deborah Lee Rose tells Beauty’s tale in simple language easy for a child to comprehend. She begins with Beauty’s birth and early years, giving the reader a background for the ultimate injury and rescue. Photographs throughout illustrate the narrative, including shots of Beauty undergoing her procedure. Families and teachers who wish to know more will find a wealth of information at the back of the book, including a free education guide and detailed information about bald eagles from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Those with access to a 3D printer can even download the files for Beauty’s beak and print their own model.

The possibilities for use in the classroom are endless, but Beauty and the Beak holds appeal for all readers. Those who need a prosthesis themselves will appreciate the advancements in technology that work to make all lives better. Jane Veltkamp’s dedication to saving a gravely injured animal reminds us that compassion can be found everywhere. Beauty herself is a testament to perseverance, and the need for all of us to help take better care of the natural world.

Inspired by Beauty’s rescue? Click here to learn about another injured bald eagle who went on to lead and extraordinary life.

Jill Staake
Jill lives in Tampa, Florida, and writes about gardening, butterflies, outdoor projects and birding. When she's not gardening, you'll find he reading, traveling and happily digging her toes into the sand on the beach.