American Eagle
Video: Behind the Scenes with the Filmmaker

Photographed by three-time Emmy Award winning filmmaker Neil Rettig, “American Eagle” is the first HD hour on bald eagles ever. In this behind-the-scenes exclusive, Rettig talks about the making of the film while he captures footage of the spring migration along the Mississippi River. Rettig shares his favorite experiences from the filming and explains why he believes wildlife filmmakers have a special responsibility to move people to think about the natural world, now more than ever.

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  • Peggy Mascher

    Oh Yes! An Eagle soaring above Gardiner Maine yesterday, maybe the same Eagle on the nest at Horseshoe Pond six miles west today. Thank the great spirit for eagles!

  • OMI


  • Jose Raygoza

    I realy liked this video on bald eagles. It realy open my mind and my heart on the importants of nature.

  • chris stark


    for the past two winters, my son and I have watched the bald eagles along the Ark river in downtown Wichita. My hope is that return again so that we can see these magnificent birds


  • brian hensien

    Awesome job Neil! How can I get a job doing that?!

  • John Walston

    Hi Neil,

    I live in Davenport and love watching the eagles in winter. In fact, I’ve had one in the tree in my back yard. I was wondering where Iowa you are located.

  • Bob Herp

    I watch more than 16 pairs in northern Ohio now. Its amazing that there is so much growth in population. Neil if you have the Harpy out in public I would love to see it some time.

  • Danielle

    hey neil,

    Just wanted to say that Canadians are also making an effort to preserve the amazing bald eagle. I volunteer for a school run wildlife organization and we just released an adult eagle back into the wild on November 7th. We have two juveniles that we are trying to rehabilitate and then release.

  • Darlene

    Your filmwork was spectacular! Awesome! It makes me just want to lie down in the wilderness and watch them fly overhead all day….. Here in south Louisiana (Bourg) the population is growing each year. Today I saw three bald eagles and yesterday I saw five….more than I’ve seen at this time of year in years’ past. Being a wildlife/nature photographer myself, I was able to take some awesome shots of eagles this year. Check them out at There is nothing else like the sound of a soaring eagle just above your head as he swoops down to catch his prey…..just awesome!

  • Nancy

    The film was great! How about filming the Red Tailed Hawk, I’ve got a nest on my property that’s been active the past 3 years in spring. Would love to learn more about these raptures that I can’t find on the net or in books. Many similarities between the Eagle and Red Tailed Hawks.

  • Michelle Gutierrez

    Hi Neil,
    I really enjoyed your film on the American eagle. In the 40 years Ive lived in northern California I had the pleasure of seeing an eagle hunt successfully for it’s prey as well as watching it eat. It was also great to learn the eagle was taken off of the endangered species list in 2007. Thanks for your beautiful work.

  • Martin Murphy

    Quite honestly, what was wrong with my comment sent three days ago.


    Martin Murphy

  • Wayne Nelson

    I found your film to be beautifully shot, informative and inspirational. As I am a Wisconsin wildlife (still) photographer it has speical meaning to me.

  • Kathy Gipson

    Just finished watching the show about the eagles..Wonderful…Even our cat watched..Where exactly on the Miss.river was the show filmed?? I just came from Klamath Falls Or to see how many eagles came in and we took pics of seven eagles. eagles came in pictures

  • Kevin

    This is one of the best films on the life of the eagle ever! The photography is some of the best you will ever see, and you will feel every aspect of the eagles life while watching this film!

  • Wendy Vanderbilt

    Spectacular filming once again, Neil! We are so fortunate to have such a talented and compassionate filmmaker in our mist…To see such fierce beauty and the proud independence of our nations symbol on film is most enjoyable. Thanks, Neil!

  • Jim

    Wonderful film!
    I live within a few hundred yards of the nest near the Decorah fish hatchery that is featured in the film. (I believe some of the filming was done from one of the windows of the barn on the farm where I grew up.)
    Lately I have noticed that the nest seems to be tipping toward the south. Has anyone else noticed this or is it just my imagination? It is in such a great location for being observed that it would be a shame if it were to fall.

  • Tim Sywyk

    Greetings from Brantford, Ontario.

    I just loved this interview and the thinking of Neil. Great job Neil, WNED, PBS again rocks.

    Brant Eagle Project
    Brantford, On,

  • Mike Chopswell

    As a resident of Decorah, Iowa, I enjoy taking drives over to the hatchery, especially in the Spring when we can check the chicks progress on the webcam, then we’ll drive over, take along our fishing poles and see if the adults left us any trout! It’s great to live here and be a regular, live witness to such natural beauty! Great job on your documentary!

  • Bill

    I really enjoyed this show and learned a lot. Good to know that bald eagles taken off the endangered species list.

  • Tim McFarland

    “Filmmaker” is an understatement. Perhaps, a misnomer. You are a magician. What you do is, truly, magic. I have never seen eagles caught it flight like this before. Your work is inspirational.

  • Bill Simbeck

    Excellent Job of filmimg, You have the greatest job.. I live in Nortwestern Penna., there are about 10 nest in Warren County where I live .
    I have been photographing Eagles and some nests for about 10-years.. It is a great thrill everytime I see an eagle..

  • Chris

    I have spent my adult life traveling to vacationing in the northern states fishing and seing eagles was always a special highlight of those trios. To see them come back has been wonderful. We view them at Starved Rock State Park along the Illionois River in the winter. Their presence enrichens the outdoor experiece for everyone. Great film, keep up thr good work and thanks for doing it.

  • JAZ

    I have never seen an eagle fly – let alone seen a bald eagle fly. My only up close and personal encounter was seeing a rescued one along with a number of other animal survivors – “rescued” by volunteers. These creatures had been injured or mamed as a result of our encrouchment into their habitats. Thank you NATURE for allowing me this opportunity to come closer to such magnificence. The filming was so reverant- yet -at times – incredibly painful to watch. I wanted to know what killed the one eyed female? What happens to the abandoned eggs? Did the rescued eagle – survive? I live in the SF Bay Area – Oakland Hills….we have red tail hawks, sometimes – we’re lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a peregrine falcon…and on rare occaisions – we’ve had a visiting owl in our neighborhood. I hope this show inspires others to observe them – protect them – let them be – and let them live – and continue to bless us with their magnificence!

  • Diane Giovacchini Schrinel

    Dear Neil,
    I don’t know if you remember my family, but we lived two houses down from your family. This is years ago, when we all lived outside of Chicago. I remember your love of animals even then. Do you recall your raccoon who would eat cherries out of Dixie cup:) I am now a second grade teacher, and showed your wonderful video to my class. They were fascinated; especially since I told the students to remember their early dreams, because look at what you have accomplished through your love of animals. We are learning about animal habitats and your video was tremendous and reminds our young students of not only the historical aspect of the eagle, but how precious it’s life is, and that humans need to take special care of all our animals.
    Very sincerely,
    Diane Giovacchini Schrinel

  • Linda

    Please keep up the great work you are doing. Eagles are magnificent birds. Thank you for all you do to bring nature to us.

  • Jessica K.

    Every winter season for the past 7 years I have gone to the Klamath National Wildlife Refuge to see bald eagles. From November to April there are 100s of bald eagles that use the area as a winter roost and feast on the massive abundance of waterfowl in the area. This refuge, located in Oregon and northeastern California, is a wonderful place to visit. I have seen the largest numbers when I went in January and February but even if you go in March you’re guaranteed to see quite a few bald eagles. Lower Klamath and Tule Lake have the best viewing areas.

  • Don

    I would like to know if this is true are not I have been watching the Decorah Eagles since the first of April and what a amazing thing to see. I ran across this web site called The life of an Eagle and was wondering if it was trun are Not.? *The eagle has the longest life-span of its’ species*

    *It can live up to 70 years *

    *But to reach this age, the eagle must make a hard decision*

    *In its’ 40′s *

    *Its’ long and flexible talons can no longer grab prey which serves as food *

    *Its’ long and sharp beak becomes bent*

    *Its’ old-aged and heavy wings, due to their thick feathers, become stuck to its’ chest and make it difficult to fly *

    *Then, the eagle is left with only two options: die or go through a painful process of change which lasts 150 days. *

    *The process requires that the eagle fly to a mountain top and sit on its’ nest*

    *There the eagle knocks its’ beak against a rock until it plucks it out *

    *After plucking it out, the eagle will wait for a new beak to grow back and then it will pluck out its’ talons *

    *When its’ new talons grow back, the eagle starts plucking its’ old-aged feathers*

    *And after five months, the eagle takes its’ famous flight of rebirth and lives for … *

    *30 more years*

  • Linda

    I am watching the Decorah Eagles for the second year, and cannot find the words to express the feelings that these beautiful creatures give me. Your filming is magnificent, and I thank you for showing me more of the Bald Eagle, and for educating me about them. I have made a donation and will continue to do so. Thank you very much, please carry on with what you do so well.

  • Rose Marie Muraski

    There has been much said and written about the magnificent Bald Eagle. Praise has been given in poetry, literature and song. It’s been exemplified in manufacture and movement, in farsightedness and agility. So much has been written about this marvelous creature, because mankind sees the incredible abilities it possesses. From ages past, man has observed it’s strengths, it’s talents and it’s instincts. Man has tried to copy these to his own advantage, but never has been able to reach the potential possessed by this eagle! How could I ever be able to add to all that generations have written, as well as verbally expressed in relation to this outstanding example of creation? I only can be grateful that these raptors are now being given the chance to survive and multiply and fill the skies with their beauty and gracefulness, and I have the privilege to witness this in my lifetime. Thanks to all those who care enough about our future, for all their effort in restoring this species to our planet.

  • mary eddy

    Thanks for all you do. The diligence and determination to continue your work is in itself amazing. I’m 64 and spent my life watching studying and learning about our American Eagles. I spent my life as an eductor of bright teenagers who were behaviorl challenged. Now is my time to go back and get my ph-d on animal language. Is there a time in the near future when I could either observe from a distance your Harpy flying or when ou are speaking about your great bird. On my bucket list has been for 20 years to see a live Harpy. I’m running out of time and do live in Mn. So if you receive this a simple date and place would be ever so much appreciated. thanks mary

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