Kent Durden (1937–2007) was an American wildlife photographer, filmmaker and
author, his cinematography appearing in a number of academic classroom films. He
is widely known for the documentary film Gifts of an Eagle, based on his
1972 book. He traveled widely, making personal appearances accompanying his films on the lecture
circuit, including the Audubon Society, for whom he lectured for 16 years.
Gifts of an Eagle (1995) related the story of the relationship between
his father and "Lady," a golden eagle who came to the Durdens’ home in the
mid-1950s, through a grant from the Fish and Wildlife Department allowing them to
capture a baby eaglet for study.
Kent and his father, Ed (James E. Durden), also a filmmaker, documented the life
of Lady, for the 16 years they had her. She was the first eagle in captivity
filmed giving birth and raised geese (her natural prey), owls and eaglets.
In the 50's and 60's, Kent and Ed provided footage of Lady and other wildlife
for a number of Lassie television episodes and she was featured in Disney films
Grand Canyon (1958, dir. James Algar) and The Legend of the Boy and
the Eagle (1967, dir. Jack Couffer).
Kent began his career as a wildlife cinematographer, writer, and naturalist
in 1962, creating documentaries on various animals and the history and wildlife
of Southern California, the Western desert, and the islands off the Santa
Barbara coast. In the 70's, he teamed up with Lou Kisner of Oxford Films to
create a series of academic classroom films using footage of animals he
photographed over the years. In order to get well-acquainted with the animals,
Kent’s temporary collection of animals in his suburban backyard in Ventura,
California included otters, foxes, flying squirrels, kangaroo rats and others,
described in his book A Fine and Peaceful Kingdom.
Kent Durden died unexpectedly in 2007 of heart failure during a mercy mission in
Belize to build schools for Mayan children. Check out Kristine Durden’s
Gifts of an Eagle website for
more about her father.
Kent Durden's complete filmography is not yet fully documented, but is believed
to include the following films, in chronological order. Please contact us for additions or corrections.
• Deserted Island (1965?) Durden Films, prod. James E. and Kent Durden.
Documents San Miguel Island in the Santa Barbara Channel.
• Eagle Sense (1956?) Durden Films, prod. James E. and Kent Durden. Features
Lady, the eagle who appeared in Eagle Hunters, a two- part series made
for Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club.
• Death Valley, Land of Contrast (1971)
• Coyote Family (American Educational Films, 1972)
• Ecology of the Prairie (Oxford Films, 1972)
• Mallard Ducks (American Educational Films, 1972)
• Owl and the Weasel (American Educational Films, 1972)
• Pocket Gopher (American Educational Films, 1972)
• River Otter (American Educational Films, 1972)
• Gila Monster (Oxford Films, 1975)
• A Wildlife Photographer at Work (Oxford Films-Palisades, 1976)
• Wild Animals Adapt (Oxford Films, 1976)
• Wild Animals Catch Fish (Oxford Films, 1976)
• Sierra Gold! The Motherlode Story (unknown year, VHS)
• Gifts of an Eagle (1995, in VHS)
• Animal Antics (unknown year)
• Otter Family (may also be known as “River Otter”)
• Shadows in the Ocean (unknown year)
• Gifts of an Eagle (1972)
• Flight to Freedom (1974)
• A Fine and Peaceful Kingdom (1975)