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Crested Eagle
Morphnus guianensis

Status: Near Threatened

Population Trend: Declining.

Other Names: Guiana Crested Eagle, Long-tailed Harpy.

Morphnus guianensis
click to enlarge
Distribution: Neotropical.  Northern GUATEMALA (Petén), and BELIZE south locally through humid HONDURAS, NICARAGUA, COSTA RICA, and PANAMA to COLOMBIA and south east of the Andes to southern BRAZIL, PARAGUAY, and extreme northeastern ARGENTINA (Misiones); west of the Andes only in central COLOMBIA (Serranía de Baudó). more....

Subspecies: Monotypic. more....

Taxonomy: Amadon and Bull (1988) felt that this genus is “barely separable” from Harpia, and this was confirmed by the molecular studies of Helbig et al. (2005), who suggested that continuing to maintain this species in a separate genus is probably not justified. Based on molecular sequences of two mitochondrial genes and one nuclear intron, Lerner and Mindell (2005) found that the genera Morphnus, Harpia (Harpy 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: Probably non-migratory.

Habitat and Habits: Occurs in undisturbed primary wet forest and sometimes in adjacent late second-growth, mostly in lowlands, but occasionally to middle elevations. In French Guiana, it is also found in palm swamps (Thiollay 2007). It perches high in the canopy, or soars above it (unlike the similar Harpy Eagle), and it may also perch in the open at forest edges more than the Harpy Eagle (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001). Nevertheless, it generally is a secretive species that is surprisingly easy to overlook, despite its large size. more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Feeds on birds (up to guan-sized), mid-sized mammals (small monkeys and opossums), snakes, and frogs (Brown and Amadon 1968, Bierregaard 1984). Captures guans and trumpeters by watching for them under fruiting trees (Sick 1993). Hunts by flying from perch to perch inside canopy or at mid-levels of trees, waiting, then going on to the next perch (Hilty 2003). more....

Breeding: The nest is a huge platform of sticks with a shallow central depression placed in the central fork of a large tree. Clutch size is 1-2 eggs, which are dull white or cream-colored and unmarked (Bierregaard 1984, Kiff et al. 1989), or with pale brown and lilac-gray spots (Kreuger 1963). Bierregaard (1984) inferred an incubation period of 40-50 days at the Brazilian nest he studied. The female broods the chicks and guards the nest, and the male is the sole provider for the female and the chicks during the first 80 days of the nestling period. The male also brings branches with green leaves to place around the nest (Bierregaard op cit.). At a nest in Guatemala, the nestling period for a female chick was 109-114 days, and it was 103-105 days for a male chick produced at the Oklahoma City Zoo, rather long for the size of the species (Whitacre et al. 2002). more....

Conservation: Rare or uncommon throughout its range, except possibly in the Amazon Basin and the Orinoco region. This species suffers from trophy and indiscriminate shooting and from habitat loss in many parts of its range. Galetti et al. (1997) suggested that it may also suffer from competition with humans for prey. It is Endangered in Middle America, where it has never been common in historical times, and is Near Threatened or Vulnerable in parts of South America. Overall, it is categorized as Near Threatened by BirdLife International. more....

Population Estimates: Ferguson-Lees and Christie (2001) tentatively estimated the global population, including adults and immatures at the start of the breeding season, at 1,000 to 10,000 birds, but noted that the "actual population may well not exceed the lower thousands." BirdLife International also estimated that the number of mature individuals falls somewhere between 1,000 to 10,000 birds, but noted that the supporting data for any estimate are poor.

Important References: 
Bierregaard, Jr., R.O. 1985. Observations on the nesting biology of the
  Guiana Crested Eagle (Morphnus guianensis). Wilson Bulletin 96:1-5,
Bierregaard, R.O. 1994. Guiana Crested 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.
Blake, E.R. 1977. Manual of Neotropical birds. 1. Sphenisicdae (penguins)
  to Laridae (gulls and terns). University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Lehmann V.,F.C. 1943. El genero Morphnus [The genus Morphnus]. Caldasia
Whitacre, D.W., A.J. López, and A. López G. 2002. Behavioral and
  physical development of a nestling Crested Eagle (Morphnus guianensis).
  Journal of Raptor Research 36:77-81.
Whitacre,D.F., J. López, and G. López. 2012. Crested Eagle. Pp. 164-184 in
  D.F. Whitacre (ed.), Neotropical birds of prey: biology and ecology of a
  forest raptor community. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY.

Sites of Interest:
Crested Eagle photos.
Aves de Rapaces do Brasil
Species account with emphasis on Brazil.

Albuquerque, Jorge
Aldana, Fernando
Beaumont, John
Bierregaard, Richard O. "Rob"
Muñiz López, Ruth
Phillips, Ryan
Piana, Renzo
Quaglia, Agustin Ignacio Eugenio
Quirós Bazán, Norman
Salvador Jr, Luiz
Vargas G., José de J.
Zuluaga Castañeda, Santiago

Last modified: 7/27/2012

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2020. Species account: Crested Eagle Morphnus guianensis. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 25 Sep. 2020

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