Birds of prey are some of the most majestic animals on the planet. Among all the raptors that rule the jungle canopy across Central and South America, harpy eagles are the undisputed apex predators.

Once roamed from northern Argentina to southern Mexico, their habitats have been shrinking since the 1800s, that they are now primarily found in the Amazon.

No one knows precisely how many are still out there in the wild, but scientists realize that harpy eagles are disappearing.

Even in their last supposedly safe stronghold deep inside Amazon and up above some of the highest towers in the rainforest, industrial-scale deforestation continues to take down their home.

With their exuberant facial feathers, fierce eyes, and sleek monochrome bodies, it is small wonder that ornithologists all around the world often rank the harpy eagles high in the list of the most spectacular birds to have ever cruised the sky.

Their nails can grow more prominent than the claws of a grizzly bear, capable of snatching a full-grown sloth clinging to a tree, at ease. Midair with wings spanned, harpy eagles are almost unbelievable.




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10 /10 Majestic Predator

The raptor is named after “Harpy,” a creature in Greek mythology with the body of a bird and the head of a female, seen as the personification of destructive winds.

Although they’re white underneath, the harpy eagle has distinctive dark grey feathers; atop the head, the feathers fan into bold crest when the bird feels threatened.

The chest features prominent black ridges. Some of the gray feathers on the chair create a facial disk that purposefully channels sound waves to the ears, much like an owl.




9 /10 Heaviest And Most Powerful Raptor

Similar to most eagles, female harpies are nearly twice as large as their male counterparts. Females weigh anywhere between 13 to 20 pounds, whereas males can grow up to 11 pounds heavy.

The entire body from the beak to the tip of the tail is around 36 to 40 inches stretched out.

The legs are curved and can be as large as a small child’s wrist.

The back talons are more significant than bear claws at 5 inches long. Harpy may not be the giant bird of prey (Andean condor is), but certainly the heaviest and most potent.






8 /10 Habitat And Diet

Harpy eagles used to roam all across the rainforest of Central and South America, although their habitat is now mostly limited to the Amazon.

Most people have never seen them because these raptors choose to stay above the large expanses of uninterrupted forest. Moreover, they spend most of their time in the forest canopy.

The wings, when fully spanned, can reach up to 6.5 feet across, which are relatively short considering the body length and size, yet perfectly adapted to maneuvering in thick-forested habitat.

They build their nest, usually at the top of silk-cotton trees around 100 feet high.

7 /10 Nest Sweet Nest

The widely-spaced branches of silk-cotton (kapok) trees provide an easy entry and take-off path from the nest.

Harpies use sticks to construct the frame then line it with softer materials, including leaves and animal fur, to make the space warm and comfortable for their young.

A nest can measure at 5 feet across and 4 feet thick, spacious enough for an adult person to use as a bed. A pair of harpy eagles may reuse and remodel the same nest for decades if left undisturbed.

6 /10 Silent Killer

The giant, powerful killers don’t make much of a noise. When they do, it is a piercing series of screeches but not nearly as dramatic as the scream of a Red-tailed hawk.

Some observers argue that the preference for silence is a way to conserve energy. For the same reason, harpy eagles rarely hover above the rainforest.

Instead, they fly just below the canopy and use their bear-sized talons to snatch a monkey or sloth from a tree.

If in the mood for a chase, a harpy eagle can fly up to 50 miles per hour.

5 /10 Heavy Duty Talons

In many instances, a harpy will fly to speed, then dive down onto the prey and grab it with an outstretched foot.

Thankfully its broad and short wings help with flying straight up, too, making it capable of attacking the target from below.

When not flying and making calls, a harpy can perch silently for more than 20 hours on a tree, patiently waiting and scanning the area for a potential meal.

The heavy-duty talons and feet are powerful enough to pierce the flesh of a 17-pound monkey, which can sustain a harpy for many days before it needs another kill.

4 /10 No Picky Eater

It is a good thing for harpy eagles that they are not picky eaters. For sure, they like monkeys and sloths, but there is no need to wait for those if there are snakes and opossums nearby.

Although most foods are found in the forest canopy, an occasional dive for porcupines or young deer can happen.

More minor male harpies need to eat more often, but only because they are not built to kill large prey. In captivity, harpy eagles have no problems eating thawed rabbits and rodents.

3 /10 Sacrificial Chick

A pair of harpy eagles mate for life. The mother lays two eggs, but only one will survive through adulthood, even if all goes well.

The first eaglet to hatch will get all the parents’ attention and is more likely to grow into an adult harpy; the other egg dies due to the lack of incubation.

It is believed that the secondary egg acts as an insurance policy if something goes wrong with the first one.

If the first eaglet dies, the second egg now earns a decent chance of hatching, saving the parents the trouble of starting over.

2 /10 Conservation

Looks can be deceiving, which is unfortunately valid for the harpies. A pair of harpy eagles need at least several square miles of “undisturbed” forest to thrive in the wild.

They are non-migratory birds, meaning they hunt in the same area for life. Years of logging, poaching, and deforestation of any sort destroy their nests and habitats, including in Amazon.

Although harpy eagles have no natural predators, their biggest threat comes from a much more dangerous place: hunting for sport.

Since harpy parents only raise an eaglet every two years, plummeting population is challenging to recover.

1 /10 Nuts And Fish

Their elusiveness makes them more attractive to hunters. Preventing them from getting shot would be helpful, but the primary focus of conservation should be on stopping deforestation.

Brazilians, particularly those who rely on the Amazon rainforest to make a living, must understand that the trees bring more money to the locals when standing up rather than being cut down.

Finding a smart modern way to integrate the Amazon with the global economy is seen as the most effective method to stop deforestation and save the majestic harpy eagles from extinction.

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