Monday, June 15, 2009

Species Profile: The number one Raptor species I want to see before I die

Species Profile:
Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja)

The harpy eagle is a very large bird of prey with a body length of 35 to 41 inches, a 6 1/2 foot wingspan and can weigh between 10 to 20 pounds. As with most birds of prey, the female is much larger, sometimes twice as heavy as the male.
The name of this bird comes from the Greek myth of the harpies, wind spirits who took the dead to Hades. The Harpies had the face of a woman and the body of a vultur
e or eagle.
The upperside of a harpy eagle is slate-gray, with white underparts. The chest is crossed with a black band that reaches the neck. The head is dark gray with a double crest that can be raised or lowered at will.

The feet of a harpy eagle are as large as an adult human hand, and the talons reach lengths of up to 5 inches. That's the length of a bear claw.
This is the largest raptor of the Americas, and among the largest extant eagle species in the world.
It is the only member of the genus harpia.

The harpy eagle's range covers the tropical lowland rainforests of Central and South America, from southern Mexico to northern Argentina, in the upper canopy layer.

Harpy eagles are active-hunting carnivores, with their diet consisting of tree-dwelling mammals like monkeys, coutis and sloths. They will also occasionally attack other birds like macaws, and will eat snakes, porcupines and iguanas. They can lift more than three-quarters of their body weight.

Harpy eagles build large stick nests high in trees, usually the kapok tree, one of the tallest trees in South America. They lay 2 eggs, but once the first egg is hatched, the other is ignored and does not hatch. It can be aggressive to humans who approach the nest.
In many South American cultures, it is bad luck to cut down a kapok tree, which may aid the conservation efforts of this species.

Conservation status:
The harpy eagle is listed as Near-Threatened by the IUCN, and Threatened with Extinction by CITES. The Harpy Eagle is threatened primarily by habitat loss provoked by the expansion of logging, cattle ranching, agriculture and prospecting; secondarily by being hunted as an actual threat to livestock and an imagined one to human life, due to its great size.

Cool facts:
  • Recently, a chick from the all but extinct population in the Brazilian state of Paraná was hatched in captivity at the preserve kept by the Brazilian/Paraguayan state-owned company Itaipu Binacional.
  • The feathers on the face may act as a facial disc, similar to those in owls, to help the eagle detect prey.
  • The San Diego Zoo is the only zoo in the United States to breed harpy eagles.
  • If you want a chilling account of a face-to-face meeting with a harpy eagle, go to Julie Zickefoose's post here.
  • If I am ever blessed enough to actually see one (either in the wild or in captivity), those of you with me will witness me peeing my pants, crying and fainting. All at once.


Beth said...

What a COOL looking bird!


Mary said...

I'm in awe.

Stacy said...

DUDE I'd so be right behind you on this (err. is that next to you on the puddled floor) They are Awesome! I think my lifer would be a Stellar. I want to see what a 10 foot wingspan looks like up close.

NatureWoman said...

O. M. G. What a cool bird!!! I'd pee, cry and faint along with you!

Susan Gets Native said...

I know, right? They are so flippin' gorgeous. And unbelievably fierce. And so scary.
And just..... just...OSSUM.
If anyone asks me, "Why raptors? Why not warblers, or ducks, or woodpeckers?"
I direct them to the harpy eagle. That's just one bad ass bird.

dAwN said...

Wow..that is one amazing looking bird! I never knew that it cool!
I would love to be there when you see it..LOL

forestal said...

truly amazing bird. kinda spooky


nina at Nature Remains. said...

A dream for me, too--
our next blogger adventure?
(Could you imagine!!)

Stacy said...

y'all come over here to Ca & we can hook up, hang out & go the San Diego wild animal park & it would be totally off the HOOK! We could even be part of the 'Cheetah run' which is totally a m a z i n g!!!! Also, you'd get to see the real star! The California Condor! Now THERE'S a badarse bird!

Kallen305 said...

OMG Susan, such a stunning bird. The chick is so adorable!

dguzman said...


Robert V. Sobczak said...

Now that's an owl I've never seen before. But wow -- it's an impressive bird.

RuthieJ said...

What a cool bird. I hope you get to see one someday too Susan!