What Are The Mind Boggling Facts About Harpy Eagles?
Last Updated on July 3, 2020 by Ephraim Iyodo
One of the most common facts about harpy eagles is that they are the second largest species of Raptor inhabited by the rainforest.
They are powerful predators above other animals in their habitat. However, what else is there to know about these birds? See for yourself with the fact about these harpies.
Mind Boggling Facts About Harpy Eagles
The harpy eagle is a neotropical species of eagle.
They are the rainforest’s largest and most powerful raptor.
Harpy eagles are one of the largest eagle species in the world as well.
They can grow more than 1 meter long and have a wingspan of 7.5 feet.
American harpy eagle and Papuan eagle are the other names of a harpy eagle.
Harpy eagles live in pairs. They are diurnal birds and do their hunting during the day.
Diet And Predatory Ability
Harpy eagles can eat mammals and reptiles.
As the top predators in their food chain, the harpy eagles’ mainly feed on sloths, opossums, and monkeys. Similarly, they would also prey on other available food sources like macaws and iguanas.
They prefer to hunt singly in the canopy or sometimes on the ground.
Most commonly, Harpy eagles use perch-hunting, in which they scan for prey activity while briefly perched between short flights from tree to tree.
Harpy eagles have sharp eyesight.
In fact, its eyesight is up to 8 times better than humans. When they do lock their sight on a potential meal, they cruise below the forest canopy and swoop in to catch their prey.
When the prey is spotted, the eagle quickly dives and grabs it.
Female harpies can take on prey weighing more than 6 lbs, while the males would not engae prey over 5 lbs.
An adult female harpy eagle in her prime can grab their targets weighing up to 20 lbs in flight and carry it without landing.
Harpy eagles are opportunistic feeders.
The monkeys, sloths, other small reptiles could be the harpy eagle’s favorite meal, but they can also eat snakes and other smaller species of birds if necessary.
Harpy eagles often prey on bigger species of monkeys such as the saki monkeys, squirrel monkeys, spider monkeys, capuchin monkeys, howler monkeys, and titi monkeys.
Interestingly, they would ignore smaller species of monkeys like marmosets and tamarins.
Sometimes, Harpy eagles are “sit-and-wait” predators which is common in forest-dwelling raptors; they perch for long periods on a high point near an opening, a river, or a salt-lick where many mammals go to feed for nutrients.
On occasion, they may also hunt by flying within or above the canopy.
They have also been observed tail-chasing: pursuing another bird in flight, rapidly dodging among trees and branches; this predation style is common to hawks that hunt birds.
Harpy eagles use vocalizations in order to communicate with one another. They often produce “uahaaaau…uahaaaau…uahaaaau” while perching or sharp “wheeeee-wheeeee” call when the birds are close to their nest.
Harpy eagles would sometimes interfere in commercial businesses.
On rare occasions, harpy eagles would take and “steal” livestock such as chicken, lamb, goats, and even piglets.
Harpy eagles are found from Mexico, through Central America, and into South America to as far south as Argentina.
These birds live in tropical lowland rainforests and may occur within such areas from the canopy to the emergent vegetation.
Harpies can also fly over forest borders in a variety of habitats, such as cerrados, caatingas, buriti palm stands, cultivated fields, and cities.
Harpy eagles build their nests on high trees in the main fork for more stability. They love to put their nests on kapok trees since it’s one of the tallest trees and start the construction where at least its 16 to 40 meters high.
Size And Lifespan
From a distance, it’s almost impossible to tell if the harpy eagle is a male or a female because they have an identical appearance aside from their size.
Harpy eagles have the largest talons or claws of any living eagle. With these sharp talons, they can lift prey weighing more than or equal to their body weight.
A full-grown harpy eagle’s talon measures 5 inches long – which is much longer than a grizzly bear’s claw growing 2 to 4 inches only.
The harpy eagle’s legs and talons can apply over 110 pounds of pressure, immediately crushing the bones of its target.
The harpy eagle’s lifespan is 25 years.
All eagles usually live in the wild for around 20-30 years. Compared to most birds, the eagle’s lifespan is much longer.
If the eagles are in captivity, along with proper veterinary care and nutrition, their lifespan can be extended to 70 years.
Mating And Reproduction
The female harpy eagle takes a little while to develop into a fully-grown adult. It only reaches sexual maturity between 4 to 5 years old.
Harpy eagles know “family planning.”
Aside from the fact that harpy eagles are monogamous, they don’t mate until their offspring is independent. As a result, they can only lay eggs every two or three years.
The harpy eagle only lays eggs every 2-3 years.
Although they don’t lay very frequently, they aggressively defend their eggs and young. Both male and female harpy eagles are capable of incubating their eggs.
A harpy eagle’s egg is incubated for around 56 days. When the eaglet reaches 36 days old, it starts walking.
The harpy eaglet develops its feathers at the same time it develops flight at 6 months old. However, its parents will continue to provide food for the young for the next 6 to 10 months.
The harpy eagle couple habitually raises only one chick every 2 to 3 years. As a result, after the first chick hatches, the second egg could be neglected and frequently fails to hatch except if the first egg dies.
Usually, female harpies will lay one or two white eggs in a large stick nest. They build durable nests that measure 1.2 meters deep and 1.5 meters across and it would already last for several years.
Global Population And Ecological Niche
According to the IUCN Red List, the total Harpy eagle population size is around 20,000-49,999 individuals.
Currently, this species is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are decreasing.
Harpy eagles control the population of mesopredators such as capuchin monkeys which prey extensively on bird’s eggs and which (if not naturally controlled) may cause local extinctions of sensitive species.
Harpy eagles don’t migrate.
Similar to its hunting strategy, harpies stay in one place and establish their territory instead of migrating. This is why deforestation is the harpy eagle’s archenemy.
According to scientists, a healthy population of harpy eagles represents a good ecosystem.
Since they are at the top of the food chain, the increase of their numbers will show and prove that the lower food chain is also healthy.
Threats And Predator Attacks
Harpy eagles are threatened primarily by habitat loss due to the expansion of logging, cattle ranching, agriculture, and prospecting.
They are also threatened by being hunted as an actual threat to livestock and/or a supposed one to human life, due to its great size.
Although not actually known to prey on humans and only rarely on domestic stock, the species’ large size and nearly fearless behavior around humans reportedly make it an “irresistible target” for hunters.
Due to these threats, Harpy eagles have become a transient sight in large parts of their range; in Brazil, they were almost wiped out from the Atlantic rainforest and are only found in appreciable numbers in the most remote parts of the Amazon basin.
Although harpy eagles are not endangered species, they are in the list of near-threatened species. In other words, they are in danger of extinction.