The Harpy Eagle: Habitat And Characteristics

The harpy eagle, or harpy eagle, is the largest bird in the western hemisphere, a characteristic that makes it one of the largest predatory birds in the world.
The harpy eagle: habitat and characteristics

The harpy eagle ( Haria harpyja ) is a species of diurnal bird of prey of the order accipitriform and family Accipitridae . It is the largest eagle in the western and southern hemisphere and the only species of the genus Harpy . The name of this eagle was inspired by the harpies, Greek mythological beings, half female and half bird.

Characteristics and habitat of the harpy eagle

The average dimensions of the female harpy eagle are 100 centimeters in length, 200 centimeters in wingspan – distance between the ends of the wings – and a weight of nine kilos.

The male is smaller, with a wingspan of 196 centimeters and a weight of eight kilos. The harpy eagle’s body is generally sturdier and longer than that of other large eagles.

The head of adults is white in color, with a very characteristic and striking crest, whose grayish and erectile plumage resembles the shape of horns. The back of the body and wings are black.

In contrast, the plumage under the wings and torso is white, and only the upper chest is crossed by a broad black band. The tail is black with three gray bands.

The beak is a very dark gray color: it has a strong beak and claws that can reach 15 centimeters in length. Their eyes have a chocolate colored iris and occasionally may be yellow in color. The skin of the paws is light yellow, while the nails are very dark gray.

The harpy eagle inhabits tropical forests with little intervention, with heights varying between 600 and 2,000 meters. Its presence extends from southeastern Mexico, through Central America (Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama), Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana, to the southeast of Brazil, Paraguay and northern Argentina.

Hawk in its habitat

Harald harpy eagle feeding

Its morphology is adapted to the habitat in which it hunts. Its wings are not so long, although they are wide in relation to the trunk, a characteristic that allows it to fly under the dense canopy of trees.

The feather crest and crown, in addition to being a warning sign, have the function of redirecting sounds to the ears. With their sharp eyesight, they can quickly sense the slightest movement of their prey among the thick leaves.

It is a predatory species: its favorite prey are arboreal mammals, such as different species of monkeys, sloths, etc. It also feeds on birds and reptiles, such as iguanas, snakes and macaws, and medium-sized terrestrial species such as deer, peccaries, armadillos and others.

Harpy eagle reproduction

It is only seen as a couple when it is in the breeding period; the rest of the time it is a solitary bird. The reproductive age of the harpy eagle starts at four or five years old and they reproduce approximately every two or three years. Its life expectancy is up to 40 years.


Their nests are built with branches and dry branches in the tops of trees, at a height of 20 to 50 meters. The nest can measure up to two meters in diameter and weigh up to 100 kg. The couple works together on its elaboration.

Harpy eagles lay between one and two eggs and, if they have two offspring, only one survives. Eggs hatch 56 days after being generated. The male feeds the female during the incubation period.

When the puppy is born, both parents take turns feeding him. However, as the baby develops, the male takes care of him less and less often, and soon only the female is responsible. The offspring grows slowly and needs parental support, at least for the first three years of life.

Filhote de gavião-real

state of preservation

In the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the harpy eagle is listed as a near-threatened species. This is because their populations have dwindled slowly but steadily. Its demographic trend is downward and it is estimated that there are fewer than 50,000 individuals today.

The destruction of its habitat is causing its disappearance in many parts of its biogeographic area, mainly in Central America. In the case of Argentina, the species is classified as endangered by several places, and in Colombia it is considered almost threatened, while in Ecuador it is vulnerable and in Venezuela it is in danger of extinction.

The threats to which this species is subject come from the progressive loss of its habitat as a result of deforestation and hunting. This not only affects the bird in question, but also the animals it attacks.

In Panama, due to its status as a national bird, it is protected, and also appears on the country’s coat of arms. On the other hand, in Ecuador there is a conservation program that works with communities that share their territories.

In 1992, the Royal Hawk Conservation Project was launched in Venezuela. This initiative has as its main objective the preservation of the population of these eagles in the country, as well as the creation and protection of ecological corridors, which allow the genetic exchange between the different populations of the country.

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