Tag Archives: Raptors

Harpy Eagle

“The largest and most powerful raptor found in the Americas.”

Arguably the largest of the Eagles in the world and therefore the biggest predatory bird living today, the  Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja) is a Neotropical species of eagle. It is sometimes known as the American Harpy Eagle to distinguish it from the Papuan Eagle which is sometimes known as the New Guinea Harpy Eagle or Papuan Harpy Eagle.  It is the largest and most powerful raptor found in the Americas, and among the largest extant species of eagles in the world.  It usually inhabits tropical lowland rainforests in the upper (emergent) canopy layer. Destruction of its natural habitat has seen it vanish from many parts of its former range, and it is nearly extirpated in Central America. In Brazil, the Harpy Eagle is also known as Royal-Hawk (in Portuguese: Gavião-Real).

Captive Harpy Eagle
Harpy Eagle

Although the Harpy Eagle still occurs over a considerable range, its distribution and populations have dwindled considerably. It is threatened primarily by habitat loss provoked by the expansion of logging, cattle ranching, agriculture and prospecting. Secondarily, it is 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 predate humans and only rarely a predator of domestic stock, the species’ large size and nearly fearless behavior around humans reportedly make it an “irresistible target” for hunters. Such threats apply throughout its range, in large parts of which the bird has become a transient sight only: in Brazil, it was all but totally wiped out from the Atlantic rainforest and is only found in numbers in the most remote parts of the Amazon Basin; a Brazilian journalistic account of the mid-1990s already complained that at the time it was only found in numbers, in Brazilian territory, on the northern side of the Equator.  Scientific 1990s records, however, suggest that the Harpy Atlantic Forest population may be migratory. Subsequent research in Brazil has established that, as of 2009, the Harpy Eagle, outside the Brazilian Amazon, is critically endangered in Espírito Santo,  São Paulo and Paraná, endangered in Rio de Janeiro, and probably extirpated in Rio Grande do Sul and Minas Gerais  – the actual size of their total population in Brazil is unknown.

Globally, The Harpy Eagle is considered Near Threatened by IUCN  and threatened with extinction by CITES (appendix I). The Peregrine Fund until recently considered it a “conservation-dependent species”, meaning it depends on a dedicated effort for captive breeding and release to the wild as well as habitat protection in order to prevent it from reaching endangered status but now has accepted the Near Threatened status. The Harpy Eagle is considered critically endangered in Mexico and Central America, where it has been extirpated in most of its former range: in Mexico, it used to be found as far North as Veracruz, but today probably occurs only in Chiapas in the Selva Zoque. It is considered as Near Threatened or Vulnerable in most of the South American portion of its range: at the Southern extreme of its range, in Argentina, it’s found only in the Parana Valley forests at the province of Misiones.  It has disappeared from El Salvador, and almost so from Costa Rica.                                                                                                                                      (From Wikipedia)