Philippine Eagle

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Common Name: Philippine Eagle
Scientific Name: Pithecophaga jefferyi

Size: 34-40 inches (86-102 cm); Wingspan: 72-87 inches (184-220 cm)

Habitat: Asia; endemic to the Philippines and can be found on four major islands: eastern Luzon, Samar, Leyte, and Mindanao. The largest numbers of eagles reside on Mindanao, with between 82 and 233 breeding pairs. Only six pairs are found on Samar, two on Leyte, and a few on Luzon. It can be found in Northern Sierra Madre National Park on Luzon and Mount Apo, Mount Malindang and Mount Kitanglad National Parks on Mindanao.

This eagle is found in dipterocarp and mid-montane forests, particularly in steep areas. Its elevation ranges from the lowlands to mountains of over 1,800 m (5,900 ft).

Status: Critically Endangered. Global population: 150-500 adult individuals with a decreasing population trend. Forest destruction and fragmentation, through commercial timber extraction and shifting cultivation, is the principal long-term threat. Old-growth forest continues to be lost rapidly, such that as little as 9,220 km2 may remain within the eagle's range. Moreover, most remaining lowland forest is leased to logging concessions. Mining applications pose an additional threat. Uncontrolled hunting (for food and, at least formerly, zoo exhibits and trade) is perhaps the most significant threat in the short term. Naive juvenile birds are easily shot or trapped, as are adults nesting near forest edges. Birds are also vulnerable to accidental capture in traps intended for wild pigs and deer, and there are several records of individuals caught in snares presumably whilst hunting on the forest floor. Pesticide accumulation is another potential but unproven threat which may reduce its already slow reproductive output.

Killing a Philippine eagle is punishable under Philippine law by 12 years in jail and heavy fines.

Diet: Mammals, birds and reptiles. It is an opportunist that takes prey based on its local level of abundance and ease. The primary prey varies from island to island depending on species availability, particularly in Luzon and Mindanao, because the islands are in different faunal regions. For example, the tree squirrel-sized Philippine flying lemurs are the preferred prey in Mindanao (in some locations it is estimated to make up 90% of the raptor's diet), while the primary prey for the eagles seen in Luzon are monkeys, birds (even other birds of prey), flying foxes, giant cloud-rats and reptiles such as large snakes and lizards. Indeed most other animals found in the Philippines, short of adult ungulates and humans, may be taken as prey. This can include Asian palm civets (12% of the diet in Mindanao), macaques, flying squirrels, tree squirrels, fruit bats and rats. They have even been reported to capture young pigs and small dogs.

Philippine eagles primarily use two hunting techniques. One is still-hunting, in which it watches for prey activity while sitting almost motionlessly on a branch near the canopy. The other is perch-hunting, which entails periodically gliding from one perch to another. While perch-hunting, they often work their way gradually down from the canopy to lower branches and, if not successful in finding prey in their initial foray, will fly or circle back up to the top of the trees to work them again.

Nesting: Sexes are alike. It has long, brown feathers that form a shaggy crest. These feathers give it the appearance of possessing a lion's mane, which in turn resembles the mythical griffin. The eagle has a dark face and a creamy-brown nape and crown. The back of the Philippine eagle is dark brown, while the underside and underwings are white. The heavy legs are yellow, with large, powerful dark claws, and the prominent large, high-arched, deep beak is a bluish-gray. The eagle's eyes are blue-gray. Juveniles are similar to adults except their upperpart feathers have pale fringes.

The complete breeding cycle of the Philippine eagle lasts two years. The female matures sexually at five years of age and the male at seven. Like most eagles, the Philippine eagle is monogamous. Once paired, a couple remains together for the rest of their lives. If one dies, the remaining eagle often searches for a new mate to replace the one lost.

The beginning of courtship is signaled by nest-building, and the eagle remaining near its nest. Aerial displays also play a major role in the courtship. These displays include paired soaring over a nesting territory, the male chasing the female in a diagonal dive, and mutual talon presentation, where the male presents his talons to the female's back and she flips over in midair to present her own talons. Advertisement displays coupled with loud calling have also been reported. The willingness of an eagle to breed is displayed by the eagle bringing nesting materials to the bird's nest. Copulation follows and occurs repeatedly both on the nest and on nearby perches.

Breeding season is in July; birds on different islands, most notably Mindanao and Luzon, begin breeding at different ends of this range. The amount of rainfall and population of prey may also affect the breeding season. The nest is normally built on an emergent dipterocarp, or any tall tree with an open crown, in primary or disturbed forest. The nests are lined with green leaves, and can be around 1.5 m (4.9 ft.) across. The nesting location is around 30 m (98 ft.) or even more above the ground. As in many other large raptors, the eagle's nest resembles a huge platform made of sticks. The eagle frequently reuses the same nesting site for several different chicks. 8 to 10 days before the egg is ready to be laid, the female is afflicted with a condition known as egg lethargy. The egg is incubated for 58 to 68 days (typically 62 days) after being laid. Both sexes participate in the incubation, but the female does the majority of incubating during the day and all of it at night.

Both sexes help feed the newly hatched eaglet. Both parents take care of the eaglet for a total of 20 months and, unless the previous nesting attempt had failed, the eagles can breed only in alternate years.

Cool Facts: Upon its discovery, the Philippine eagle was first called the “Monkey-eating Eagle” because of reports from natives that it preyed exclusively on monkeys. Later studies revealed, however, that the alleged monkey-eating eagle also ate other animals, such as colugos, civets, large snakes, monitor lizards, and even large birds, such as hornbills. This led to a presidential proclamation to change its name to “Philippine eagle” in 1978, and in 1995, it became the national emblem of the Philippines.

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

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