Saturday, 5 February 2011

Harpy eagle

Harpia harpyja

Photo by Tom Friedel (Wikipedia)

Common name:

Order Falconiformes
Family Accipitridae

Harpy eagles are found from southern Mexico down to Bolivia, northern Argentina and southern Brazil.

One of the largest eagles in the world, these birds are 89-105 cm long and have a wingspan of 176-201 cm. Females tend to be larger than males, with males weighing 3,8-5,4 kg while females weigh 6,5-9 kg.

This species occurs in gallery rainforests in lowlands and foothills up to about 2,000 m above sea level. They can apparently survive in isolated patches of primary forest, selectively logged primary forest, and even late second-growth forests with a at least a few large emergent trees.

Harpy eagles mainly feed on medium-sized mammals, including sloths, monkeys, agoutis, armadillos, and deer, large birds like guans, curassows, and macaws, large lizards, and occasionally snakes.

These birds can breed all year round. Both parents build the nest, a huge platform of sticks with a shallow central cup, placed in a high crotch of a huge emergent tree in primary forest, or partially logged forest with remaining large trees. There the female lays 2 dull white eggs, only one of which will hatch. The female mostly incubates the eggs alone for 55-60 days. The chick is fed by both parents and fledges 141-148 days after hatching. After hatching the chick is generally inactive and continues to be fed by the parents for another 6-10 months. Pairs will only raise one chick every 2-3 years.

IUCN status - NT (Near-Threatened)
Harpy eagles are sparsely distributed and generally rare throughout their very large breeding range. The global population is estimated at 20.000-50.000 individuals and suffering a moderately rapid decline, mostly due to habitat loss and hunting. This species is threatened by the escalating rate of forest destruction in the neotropics and also suffers from competition with humans for prey.

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