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40 Interesting Harpy Eagle Facts

by Sankalan Baidya
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40 Interesting Harpy Eagle Facts

Predator birds are frightening but at the same time they are elegant. The Harpy Eagle is a perfect example of such unique combination of terror and beauty. Its sheer size and its power makes it the top predator of arena. Let us find out 40 interesting Harpy Eagle facts and understand what makes them so incredibly dangerous and effective killing machine. In the process, we will also learn about its unique beauty that has inspired Hollywood movie makers. You ready?

Interesting Harpy Eagle Facts: 1-10

1. The binomial name of Harpy Eagle is Harpia harpyja. It is a neotropical eagle species.

2. This big and powerful raptor is often referred to as the American Harpy Eagle simply for the sake of distinguishing it from Papuan Harpy Eagle and New Guinea Harpy Eagle.

3. This eagle is iconic and is found throughout South America and Central America. In fact, it is the most powerful and largest predatory bird of the Americas.

4. The name of the bird is derived from Greek mythological creatures known as ‘harpies’. Harpies, according to Greek mythology were monsters with wings and sharp claws and wore the face of a woman.

5. Harpy Eagle is blessed with rounded and broad wings as well as a long tail. However, compared to the total body size, the wings are relatively smaller.

6. The smaller wings of Harpy are actually an environmental adaptation to help increase the maneuverability in forest conditions. Though the wings are smaller compared to the body, they span up to 2 meters. Some can have wingspan of up to 2.286 meters.

7. Two things that make the Harpy a formidable predator are its strong hooked beak and its massive talons.

8. Its beak is extremely powerful and tear apart its prey with ease. As far as the talons of a Harpy are concerned, they are massive and can grow up to 4 inches in length.

9. It also has a powerful and long talon on the back of its claw which it uses for repeatedly stabbing its prey. A Harpy’s talons are as big as the claws of a full-grown bear.

10. Its legs are extremely powerful and pretty thick. In fact, its legs can be as thick as the wrist of a fully-grown adult human.

Interesting Harpy Eagle Facts: 11-20

11. The strong legs and massive talons of a Harpy allow it to snatch a prey from trees with ease. They are capable of flying with prey in excess of 7 kilograms of 15 pounds. Their powerful legs and claws also allow them to snatch prey mid-air during flight.

12. A fully-grown adult Harpy Eagle has a neck and head of gray color. The feathers on the upper side of Harpy’s body are slate-black in color. The underside is white with the exception of the tarsi which is feathered and has a stripped black appearance.

13. The gray head and the white underside are separated by a distinctive black band which runs across upper breast.

14. The head of a Harpy Eagle has a beautiful double-pointed crest. The crest is raised and the facial feathers give a disc-like appearance to the face.

15. It is the beautiful crest of Harpy that inspired the design of Phoenix that we saw in the famous Harry Porter movies. Just a reminder, the name of the Phoenix was Fawkes.

16. The tail of Harpy is also beautiful. On the upper side, the tail is slate-black but has three gray bands. On the underside the tails is again black but this time, the three bands are white in color.

17. Harpy Eagles have beautiful eyes. Their iris is either red, brown or gray in color. Their bill and cere are usually blackish or black and their toes are yellow in color.

18. Interestingly, there is no difference between a male Harpy and female Harpy in terms of visual appearance except for the fact that females are usually larger in size than the males.

19. A female Harpy can weigh almost twice as much as a male Harpy. This isn’t unusual because this trait is seen in almost all birds of prey. Harpy Eagles can grow anywhere between 2’10” and 3’6” in length.

20. As far as weight of Harpy Eagles are concerned, a male Harpy usually weighs between 4 and 4.8 kilograms or 8.8 and 10.6 lbs. Female Harpy Eagles on the other hand weigh anywhere between 6 and 9 kilograms or 13 and 20 lbs.

Interesting Harpy Eagle Facts: 21-30

21. Juvenile Harpy Eagles have a different appearance. They have a whitish to gray color throughout the body. Upper parts of the body are usually brownish-gray in color while the crest is whitish. Tails of juveniles do have the dark bars on the top. However, by the time juveniles become 4 years of age, their colors become darker and the plumage takes the appearance as described above (see #12 to #18).

22. The call of a Harpy Eagle is described as wheeeoooooo or just wheeeeeeeeee. It is a penetrative and plaintive scream. The scream is repeated several times during a single call.

23. Harpy Eagles are fully carnivores. Their major diet source comes from arboreal mammals like the sloths and the monkeys. However, they are also known to capture land animals like peccaries, deer, armadillos, foxes and agoutis.

24. If necessary, they don’t mind feeding on reptiles and birds. Their commonest preys in this category include reptiles like iguanas and snakes and birds like curassows and macaws.

25. Harpy Eagles use a particular type of hunting style. They will first take up a position on a perch and watch for potential prey. In case they can’t get anything within their visual range, they will make use of their excellent hearing, which is aided by the disc-like facial construction. Once the prey is located, they will fly through the forest trees with extreme agility and speed and snatch the prey even before the prey realizes that it is in trouble.

26. Since male Harpy Eagles are smaller in size, they usually go for smaller preys but females take advantage of their size and can grab larger preys with ease. Once a prey is captured, a Harpy will usually carry it to a tree top and enjoy the fresh meat. However, if the prey is heavy, a Harpy will usually drag it to a fallen tree trunk and then eat it.

27. Both female and male Harpy Eagles work together towards constructing a nest which is usually located on tall trees. Mostly they select a Kapok tree. The nest is usually pretty large platform made of sticks. The nest is usually 4.9 feet across and 3.9 feet deep. However, they do decorate their nests a bit by lining the next borders with green leaves.

28. Once a male and a female Harpy mates, the female lays just two eggs which are dull white in color. The female then incubates the eggs for a period of 56 days before the chicks are born. Usually, only one of the two chicks survive. The female remains in charge of raising the chick(s).

29. When the female incubates the eggs and later raises the chick(s), it is the job of the male to ensure a steady food supply is maintained for the mother and the babies. The male will usually bring food every two to three days.

30. At the age of 4.5 months to 6 months, the young Harpy Eagles fledge but they don’t go far and stay close to the nest. They usually stay dependent on their parents for food supply for next 8 to 12 months after which they grown big enough to go out on hunting expeditions and arrange for their own meals. However, they may not succeed and hence, they stay close to their nests until they grow 2 years old.

Interesting Harpy Eagle Facts: 31-40

31. Since the juveniles stay dependent on their parents for up to 2 years, the adults usually mate only once every 2 to 3 years. They usually mate anywhere between April and November but they can mate anytime during the year.

32. Harpy Eagles are usually found in subtropical and tropical evergreen forests. That are below 900 meters of elevation above sea level. However, they can occasionally live in forests that lie at elevation of 2,000 meters. This is possible because they are very capable of adaptation to habitat disturbance. If there are forest patches and sufficient food supply, they are happy to stay.

33. Though Harpy Eagles are massive, they are barely seen flying in open air. They usually glide through forest canopy and very rarely they fly above the canopy.

34. They are monogamous by nature. Simply put, they will usually keep only one breeding partner for their lifetime. They may fly alone or they may fly in pairs.

35. Harpy Eagles are very rare throughout their range. They are found from Mexico to Central America and into South America, all the way down to Argentina. In Mexico, they are almost extinct. They are however spread across the length and breadth of Brazil.

36. In Central America, Harpy Eagle is almost extinct except in certain areas in Panama where Harpy Eagle is a national bird. Deforestation is the primary culprit for near extinction of Harpy in Central America.

37. A breeding pair of Harpies occupy an area as large as 11,000 acres or 44.5 square kilometers with the average distance between two nests of two separate breeding pairs being 7.4 kilometers. However, this is usually under ideal conditions. In less ideal conditions, their territories squeeze down severely to 25 square kilometers.

38. In the wild, Harpy Eagles can survive anywhere between 25 years and 35 years. They can live longer in captivity.

39. Harpies are diurnal by nature. This means that they hunt and stay active during the day. By day fall, they return to their nests and rest.

40. Rapid habitat loss due to deforestation has led to significant drop in Harpies. In many areas they are thought to be locally extinct. They also become victims of human hunting games, which is also a major contributory factor for their rapid decline in number. As of today, Harpies are designated as Near Threatened species.

A Few Images of Harpy Eagle

harpy eagle facts
Harpy Eagle - Double Pointed Crest
harpy eagle facts
Harpy Eagle - Disc-Like Face
harpy eagle facts
Harpy Eagle - Underside Body Color
harpy eagle facts
Harpy Eagle - Side View
harpy eagle facts
Harpy Eagle In Flight

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

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3 comments

Molly February 5, 2018 - 11:13 pm

Didn’t help at all

Reply
Molly February 5, 2018 - 11:14 pm

Didn’t help. I need help on how long the tail is.

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Molly February 5, 2018 - 11:15 pm

That is my comment

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