They have talons as big or bigger than a grizzly bear’s claws, and can exert more than 100 pounds of force with them. To phrase that another way, this eagle – one of the largest, but not the largest in the world – has the most powerful grip of any bird of prey, able to easily sink its four to five inch talons deep into flesh and even through bone. Females typically weigh 6 to 9 kg (13 to 20 lb) while males are smaller at between 4 to 6 kg (9 to 13 lb). They are very large birds, measuring 86.5 to 107 cm (2 ft 10 in to 3 ft 6 in) long (not including tail feathers), with a wingspan of 176 to 224 cm (5 ft 9 in to 7 ft 4 in).
Prior to the deforestation of tropical rainforests for timber, agriculture, and other human encroachments, the range of Harpia harpyja (common name: harpy eagle) stretched from southern Mexico across Central America and South America to the Atlantic Ocean. The bird was most abundant in the rainforests of Brazil, but in the last hundred years or so, their range has been greatly diminished. However, the species’ South American territory has always excluded the Andes Mountains, Pacific coast, and almost everything south of Brazil.
Even before loss of habitat, H. harpyja was not a common sight. They build their nests at the top of the tree canopy, usually 30 meters (100 feet) above the ground. An apex predator, the harpy eagle’s only real threat is man. Unfortunately, farmers, ranchers, and trophy hunters indescrimately shoot the big raptors. The species is now nearly vanquished from Central America.
The harpy eagle’s preferred prey is monkey or sloth. If predators like the harpy were not around to keep the monkey population in check, the primates would raid too many bird nests, causing the extinction of tropical birds.
Most of the animals presented by the Night Owl are classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as species of Least Concern (LC). However, the IUCN classifies H. harpyja as Near Threatened (NT). Other classifications include Vulnerable (VU), Endangered (EN), Critically Endangered (CR), Extinct in the Wild (EW), and Extinct (EX).
Genus: Harpia [Vieillot, 1816]
Species: Harpia harpyja (Linnaeus, 1758)
“Inside a Harpy Eagle Nest | Ultimate Killers | BBC Earth” (3:01):
“Meet The Harpy Eagle, A Bird So Big, Some People Think It’s A Person In A Costume” (4:01):
“Beware The Harpy! | Peru’s Wild Kingdom” (3:14):
Question Of The Night: Be truthful (or not) but start your answer with, “Never have I ever…” and fill in the rest.