Harpy Eagle

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Image:HarpyEagle.jpg

Common Name: Harpy Eagle
Scientific Name: Harpia harpyja

Size: 34-42 inches (86.5-107 cm); Wingspan: 69-88 inches (176-224 cm)

Habitat: Central and South America; it sparsely distributed and generally rare throughout its extensive range in south Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and north-east Argentina.

It occurs in uninterrupted expanses of lowland tropical forest, but will nest where high-grade forestry has been practiced, and use forest patches within a pasture/forest mosaic for hunting.

Status: Near Threatened. Global population: 20,000- 49,000 adult individuals with a decreasing population trend. This species is suspected to lose up to 46% of suitable habitat within its distribution over three generations, so the species is therefore suspected to decline by 25-30% over three generations.

Although, it is still reasonably common in the Amazonian forests of Brazil and Peru, it will only survive in the long term if the escalating rate of forest destruction in the region is brought under control and a network of inviolate reserves are established. Low overall population densities and slow reproductive rates make shooting the most significant threat over its entire range.. It could perhaps survive in disturbed forests or even forest mosaics if its large size and boldness in the face of humans did not make it an irresistible target for hunters. It presumably also suffers from competition with humans for prey

Diet: Mostly tree-dwelling mammals (sloths and monkeys). Additional prey items reported include reptiles (such as iguanas, tejus and snakes) and birds (mostly macaws).

The most common hunting technique of the species is perch-hunting, which consists of scanning around for prey activity while briefly perched between short flights from tree to tree. When prey is spotted, the eagle quickly dives and grabs the prey. Sometimes, they may also hunt by flying within or above the canopy. They have also been observed tail-chasing, a predation style common to hawks that hunt birds. This comprises the eagle pursuing another bird in flight, rapidly dodging among trees and branches, which requires both speed and agility.

Nesting: Sexes are alike, although female are much larger. The upper side of the harpy eagle is covered with slate black feathers, and the underside is mostly white, except for the feathered tarsi (legs), which are striped black. There is a broad black band across the upper breast, separating the gray head from the white belly. The head is pale grey, and is crowned with a double crest. The upper side of the tail is black with three gray bands, while the underside of it is black with three white bands. The iris is gray or brown or red, the cere and bill are black or blackish and the tarsi and toes are yellow.

This species is largely silent away from the nest. There, the adults give a penetrating, weak, melancholy scream, with the incubating male's call described as "whispy screaming or wailing". The females calls while incubating are similar but are lower pitched. While approaching the nest with food, the male calls out "rapid chirps, goose-like calls, and occasional sharp screams". Vocalization in both parents decreases as the nestlings age, while the nestlings become more vocal. The nestlings call Chi-chi-chi...chi-chi-chi-chi, seemingly in alarm in response to rain or direct sunlight. When humans approach the nest, the nestlings have been described as uttering croaks, quacks and whistles.

In ideal habitats, nests may be fairly close together at 3 km (2 mi). In less ideal areas, with fragmented forest, breeding territories were estimated at 25 km (16 mi). The female harpy eagle lays two white eggs in a large stick nest, which commonly measures 1.2 m (3.9 ft.) deep and 1.5 m (4.9 ft.) across and may be used over several years. Nests are located high up in a tree, usually in the main fork, at 16 to 43 m (52 to 141 ft.).

Cool Facts: The harpy eagle possess the largest talons of any living eagle. The harpy's feet are extremely powerful and can exert a pressure of 42 kgf/cm² (4.1 MPa or 530 lbf/in² or 400 N/cm²) with its talons.

In many South American cultures it is considered bad luck to cut down the kapok tree (the preferred nesting tree), which may help safeguard the habitat of this species.

It is thought to be locally or regionally extinct in large parts of its former range, notably most of central and north Central America and possibly Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, but recent records suggest that the population in the southern Atlantic forests may be migratory.


This 3D model is found in Songbird ReMix Birds of Prey Volume IV: Eagles of the World

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