The harpy eagle is a fearsome avian predator that lives in the rainforest canopy. This page contains harpy eagle facts and information. Read on to find out more about this magnificent bird of prey …
Harpy Eagle Information
This article is part of our Rainforest Animals series.
Harpy eagles live in the rainforests of Central and South America. Harpy eagles are the heaviest and most powerful birds of prey in the Americas. They are also known as American harpy eagles, and in Brazil as royal hawks. The harpy eagle’s scientific name is Harpia harpya.
Harpy eagles have the largest talons of any eagle, and think nothing of plucking monkeys or sloths out of trees. Harpy eagles are the apex predators (top of the food chain!) in their environment.
You can learn more about the harpy eagle’s diet and hunting methods further down the page.
What Does A Harpy Eagle Look Like?
The back and upper wings of a harpy eagle are very dark grey. Its undersides and legs are white, apart from a wide black ‘collar’ around its neck. Its legs are white with thin black stripes. Harpy eagles have grey heads, and have feathered crests which they raise when they are threatened.
It is thought that the harpy eagle is adapted so that the feathers around its face direct sound towards its ears.
Harpy Eagle Size
Harpy eagles are well known for their large size, and are the heaviest raptors in the americas.
Like many birds of prey, the female harpy eagle is larger than the male. One reason for this may be so that they are not competing for the same prey. Female harpy eagles tend to predate larger creatures than the males.
The wingspan of a harpy eagle can be over 2 metres (6.5 ft) wide. Their wings provide the lift that allows them to carry prey items weighing more than 7kg. Their bodies can be up to 1 metre (3 – 3.5 ft.) long.
Harpy eagles are built more for a quick chase rather than a sustained pursuit, and can reach speeds of 50 mph (80 kmph)!
Full-grown female harpy eagles weigh between 6 and 9 kilograms. The males are smaller and lighter, tipping the scales at around 4 to 6 kilograms.
Up Close & Personal!
The video below shows just how fearsome a creature the harpy eagle actually is. The presenter seems terrified — perhaps rightly so!
More Harpy Eagle Facts
What Countries Do Harpy Eagles Live In?
Harpy eagles live in Central and South America. Their range stretches from Mexico to Argentina, and they are also found in Belize, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Paraguay and Venezuela. They are most numerous in Brazil, and are very rare elsewhere.
Despite their large range, harpy eagles are sparsely distributed, and are seldom seen.
Harpy Eagle Habitat
Harpy eagles usually inhabit the canopy layer of tropical lowland rainforests. Despite their size, they are fast, nimble flyers, and usually hunt in forested areas.
Are Harpy Eagles Endangered?
Harpy eagles are classified as ‘near threatened’ on the IUCN Red List. The harpy eagle’s territory has vastly diminished over the years as a result of deforestation. Despite being protected in several areas, they are also occasionally hunted.
Harpy Eagle Hunting Methods
Harpy eagles are diurnal, which means that they are active during the day. A harpy eagle’s favoured method of hunting is ‘perch hunting’. It flies from tree to tree in search of prey. When suitable prey is spotted, the bird swoops down and grabs it in their talons.
Another hunting tactic used by a harpy eagle is ‘sit and wait’ hunting, in which the bird perches in the same place until the prey wanders into view. Harpy eagles have been known to wait up to 23 hours for prey to appear using this method.
Harpy eagles will also hunt other birds by pursuing them through the trees.
Harpy Eagle Diet
Favourite prey for the larger female harpy eagle is monkeys and sloths, as well as a variety of other species. Male birds generally take smaller animals. Snakes, rodents, primates and deer are all known to from part of a harpy eagle’s diet.
Harpy eagles store food that they are unable to eat, and are able to eat meat that is slightly rancid. After a big meal, harpy eagles can go several days without food.
10 Awesome Facts About Harpy Eagles
- Harpy eagles are among the world’s largest and most powerful eagles. Their rear talons are about three to four inches long – the same size as a grizzly bear’s claws.
- Harpy eagles bring fresh green twigs and branches to the nest even after the chick has hatched. This may help to keep insects and parasites away, and also provide a cooler environment for the chick.
- Harpy eagles have the largest talons of any extant (living) eagle.
- Deforestation and shooting are the two main threats to the survival of the harpy eagle.
- The harpy eagle is the national bird of Panama and appears on their coat of arms.
- The design of Fawkes the Phoenix in the Harry Potter movies was inspired by the harpy eagle.
- The harpy eagle lays two eggs, one egg is referred to as a “back up” in case something happens to the first egg, or it fails to hatch.
- It takes an egg 56 days to hatch, and the young eagles are able to walk and stand after 36 days.
- Harpy eagles swoop at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour.
- It can take the harpy eagle three days to digest a meal, and they may only hunt twice a week.
Harpy Eagle Facts Conclusion
We hope that you enjoyed learning about harpy eagles. Perhaps you’re now planning a trip to the rainforest to see one for yourself!
You can read about some of the other animals you might encounter in the rainforest here.
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