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Harpy Eagle
Harpia harpyja

Status: Near Threatened

Population Trend: Declining.

Other Names: Thrasaetus harpyia

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Harpia harpyja
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Distribution: Neotropical. Southern MEXICO (formerly north to Veracruz, but now probably only in Chiapas) south locally through Caribbean Central America to COLOMBIA east to VENEZUELA and the GUIANAS and south through eastern BOLIVIA and BRAZIL to extreme northeastern ARGENTINA (Misiones) and PARAGUAY; formerly in western COLOMBIA and western ECUADOR, but now nearly extirpated in that region, except for Esmeraldas Province. more....

Subspecies: Monotypic.

Taxonomy: The molecular studies of Helbig et al. (2005) indicated that the genera Harpia and Morphnus are sister genera and perhaps should be merged. Based on molecular sequences of two mitochondrial genes and one nuclear intron, Lerner and Mindell (2005) found that the genera Harpia, Morphnus (Crested Eagle), and Harpyopsis (New Guinea Harpy Eagle) are highly similar in sequence and form a well defined clade. However, they are not closely related to the Philippine Eagle Pithecophaga jefferyi, which appears to be sister to a clade of snake eagles.

Movements: Irruptive or local migrant (Bildstein 2006). Probably largely sedentary, but said to be locally migratory (or nomadic?) in Rio Grande do Sul Brazil (Sick 1993). Beebe (1947) saw two groups of harpies, one containing four birds and the other two, moving northward high above Rancho Grande, Venezuela on 7 August 1946, engaged in some movement clearly unrelated to foraging, but this sort of behavior has not been recorded by more recent observers. The typical dispersal distances of juveniles is still unresolved. Some birds released in Belize by The Peregrine Fund have dispersed between 40 and 150 km from the release site (Muela et al. 2007), but this may not be typical of young fledged by wild pairs (cf. Alvarez-Cordero 1996).

Habitat and Habits: Occurs in gallery rainforests in lowlands and foothills up to about 2,000 m.  Harpies can apparently survive in isolated patches of primary forest, selectively logged primary forest, and late second-growth with a few large emergent trees at least temporarily, if it can avoid persecution and if enough prey is still available. This species rarely, if ever, soars over the canopy, and is seldom seen over open spaces. Harpies are not particularly wary, but they are remarkably inconspicuous, despite their great size. more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Feeds mainly on medium-sized mammals, including sloths, monkeys, agoutis, armadillos, and deer, large birds (guans, curassows, and macaws), large lizards, and occasionally snakes. Hunts from a perch within the canopy. sometimes at the edge of a river, or makes short flights from tree to tree within the canopy with surprising agility, looking (and listening) for prey. more....

Breeding: The nest is 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. Both parents participate in nest building. Alternate nests are built and maintained in the same vicinity, but certain nests may be re-used in successive nesting attempts. Clutch size is 1-2 eggs, which are dull white, and they usually acquire heavy brownish nest stains. Almost all incubation is done by the female, and the male provides most of the food for the chicks. When the clutch size is two eggs, there is an interval of several days between the laying and hatching of the eggs, and only one eaglet survives to fledge. The incubation period is about 56 days, and a Guyana chick fledged at 141-148 days (Rettig 1978). more....

Conservation: Critically Endangered in Mexico and Central America, where it has been extirpated in most of its former range. Near Threatened or Vulnerable in most of the South American portion of its range. Generally rare everywhere in inhabited areas, but sometimes relatively common away from human settlements in Amazonia. Trophy shooting of birds is a chronic problem throughout its range, particularly on the periphery of its range, where such persecution often follows quickly after deforestation occurs. Indeed, most records of its occurrence are based on individuals that were shot for one reason or another. The capture of birds (particularly juveniles) for pets or curiosities is also a pervasive problem. Collar et al. (1992, 1994) categorized this species as Near Threatened, as does BirdLife International currently. more....

Population Estimates: Ferguson-Lees and Christie (2001) estimated the global population at the start of the breeding season at 10,000 to 100,000 individuals, noting that some observers would put the population in the high tens of thousands. BirdLife International (2009) estimated the total number of mature individuals at 20,000 to 49,999 birds, but noted that the supporting date for these figures are poor. Estimates in this range rely heavily on the assumption that a large harpy population still remains in Amazonia.

Important References: 
Alvarez-Cordero, E. 1996. Biology and conservation of the Harpy Eagle in
  Venezuela and Panama. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Florida,
  Gainesville. FL.
Bierregaard, R.O. 1994. Harpy Eagle. P. 191 in del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott,
  and J. Sargatal (eds). Handbook of birds of the world. Vol. 2. New World
  vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Fowler, J.M., and J.B. Cope. 1964. Notes on the Harpy Eagle in British
  Guiana. Auk 81:257-273.
Muela, A., R. Watson, B.D. Mutch, W.R. Heinrich, J.P. Jenny, and M. Curti.
  2003. The Harpy Eagle: biology, restoration and hacking procedures. Fondo
  Peregrino-Panamá/The Peregrine Fund.
Muñiz-López, R. 2007. Ecology, biology and habitat of the Harpy Eagle
  (Harpia harpyja). Pp. 191-244 in P. Tufiño (ed.), Cunsi Pindo:
  conservation of the Harpy Eagle in Ecuador. SIMBIOE, Quito, Ecuador. (In
Muñiz-López, R. 2008. [Review of the status of the Harpy Eagle Harpia
in Ecuador]. Cotinga 29:42-47. (In Spanish with English summary)
Rettig, N. 1978. Breeding behavior of the Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja).
  Auk 95:629-643.
Touchton, J.M., Y. Hsu, and A. Palleroni. 2002. Foraging ecology of
  reintroduced captive bred subadult Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja) on Barro
  Colorado Island, Panama. Ornitologia Neotropical 13:365-379.
Tufiño, P.M. (ed.) 2007. Cunsi pindo: the mistress of the monkeys.
  SIMBIOE, Quito, Ecuador.
Vargas G., J.d.J., D. Whitacre, R. Mosquera, J. Albuquerque, R. Piana,
  J.-M. Thiollay, C. Márquez, J.E. Sánchez, M. Lezama-López, S.
  Midence, S. Matola, S. Aguilar, N. Rettig, and T. Sanaiotti.
2006. [Ecology
  and current distribution of the Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja) in Central and
  South America.] Ornitologia Neotropical 17:39-55. (In Spanish with English

Current Research: Until the 1990s, the overall decline and regional extirpations of the Harpy Eagle were viewed fatalistically, as it seemed impossible to turn the tide of primary forest destruction and persecution which this spectacular species faced. In recent years, however, vigorous conservation efforts, including captive breeding and release projects, enlisting the cooperation of indigenous people to protect nest sites, stricter legal protection, and imaginative environmental education programs may be turning the tide in favor of this species in several Latin American countries. more....

Sites of Interest:
The Peregrine Fund
Captive breeding project in Panama and reintroduction projects in Panama and Belize.
Harpy Eagle Conservation Program
Harpy Eagle nest monitoring program in Brazil.
Program for the conservation of the Harpy Eagle in Ecuador.
Harpy Eagle photos.
Cornell Lab Neotropical Birds Online
An information-rich species account on the harpy.
Aves de Rapina do Brasil
Species account with emphasis on Brazil.
Programa de Conservación del Águila Harpía en Ecua
Facebook account for the Harpy Eagle conservation program in Ecuador.

Albuquerque, Jorge
Aldana, Fernando
Azevedo, Marcos Antônio Guimarães
Balza, Ulises
Barbar, Facundo
Beaumont, John
Campbell-Thompson, Edwin
Canuto, Marcus
Cruz-Martinez, Luis
Curti, Marta
De Lucca, Eduardo Raul
Giudice, Renzo
Gómez, César
Hinlo, Maria Rheyda
Iñigo-Elias, Eduardo
Jais, Markus
Johnson, Diego
Kentler, Jens-Michael
Lerner, Heather
Lima, Fernando
Lisboa, Jorge
Matola, Sharon
Mindell, David
Muela, Angel
Muñiz López, Ruth
Naveda-Rodriguez, Adrian
Phillips, Ryan
Piana, Renzo
Quaglia, Agustin Ignacio Eugenio
Quirós Bazán, Norman
Riba-Hernández, Laura
Salvador Jr, Luiz
Sanchez, Cesar
Sandfort, Cal
Santos, Kassius Klay
Silveira da Silva, Elsimar
Valdez, Ursula
Vargas, Hernan
Vargas G., José de J.
Zuluaga Castañeda, Santiago

Last modified: 12/11/2011

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2022. Species account: Harpy Eagle Harpia harpyja. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 27 Jan. 2022

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