Updated: Apr 22, 2020
By George Wykes
Meet the Harpy Eagle, one of the largest birds in the world and owner of talons the size of grizzly bear claws and legs as thick as a child’s wrist, this top predator of the Central and South American rainforests is truly a sight to behold. It’s not just pure size and deadly dagger like talons that make the Harpy Eagle a top predator however, it is in a unique minority of diurnal birds of prey that posses a concave shaped facial disc, much like those found on owls. This enables them to pinpoint sounds in dense rainforests and help them to home in on their prey. They can also hit top speeds of 50 mph and are able to easily manovure amongst the trees thanks to a specially adapted shortened wingspan. Finally, sheer size and strength means that even prey such as monkeys and sloths aren’t safe and are regularly taken from the treetops.
With no natural predators you may be forgiven for thinking the Harpy Eagle may be untouchable. This is sadly not the case. Declining Harpy Eagle populations can be directly linked to severe habitat loss this is worsened further still by non-migratory behaviour and a slow reproductive of just one eglet being raised every two every years therefore further happening further population recoveries. Hunting presents another significant threat to this majestic bird of prey’s population status. Eagles are predominantly shot for sport, however some hunters have also been quoted as saying that they have shot eagles out of curiosity. Whatever the reasoning, habitat loss and hunting represent two of the direst threats to Harpy Eagle populations with some completely disappearing from some areas they once inhabited.
© Linnaea Mallette