Listed: June 14, 1976
Family: Accipitridae (Hawks and Eagles)
Description: A large eagle.
Habitat: Tropical rainforest.
Food: Monkeys, other forest mammals, and large birds.
Reproduction: Lays eggs in a huge nest in a tall tree.
Threats: Habitat loss and hunting.
Range: Argentina, Bolivia, Belize, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname.
The harpy eagle is a large predatory bird. It has huge feet and talons, useful for hunting monkeys, sloths, porcupines, reptiles, and large birds. Mature adults have a black upper body, white underparts banded with black, a gray head and neck, and a divided crest on the head; juveniles are mostly white. At physical maturity, this eagle has a body length of 35-40 in (89-102 cm) and weighs up to 15.5 lb (7 kg).
The harpy eagle is adept at gliding through the canopy and plucking its prey out of a tree. Mating pairs build a large nest in the top of a tall tree. The clutch is one to two eggs. Incubation takes eight weeks, with one chick usually surviving and remaining in the nest for up to five months. Mating usually takes place every other year.
The harpy eagle inhabits primary tropical and subtropical forest, from the lowlands to elevations of about 5,250 ft (1,600 m). Each pair of eagles requires a vast area of forest as habitat, but the exact territory size is uncertain.
The harpy eagle is found from southeastern Mexico through Central and South America to Paraguay and northern Argentina.
The harpy eagle is now widespread but scarce throughout Central and South America, although it was considered fairly common in some areas during the 1800s. Since it prefers primary forest, its numbers have decreased wherever there is regular human access to its forest habitat. Forest destruction by logging and agricultural development has substantially reduced its habitat. Population figures are uncertain.
Illegal hunting is still common throughout the range of the harpy eagle. It has been accorded legal protection in several countries, including Brazil, Panama, and Suriname. However, the protection is difficult to enforce because of the remote and inaccessible nature of its habitat. Hunting also reduces the available prey for the rare eagle. Captive breeding of this species has been attempted. However, its future is uncertain unless the rate of forest destruction is brought under control.
Instituto Nacional de Ecología
Av. Revolución, 1425
Col. Campestre, C.P. 01040, Mexico, D.F.
Source: Beacham's Guide to the Endangered Species of North America , Gale Group. 2001.
Harpy Eagle image from Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia.