The guide said, “The macaws are making a lot of noise this morning. They are upset about something. But they are so noisy it’s hard to say if the macaws are truly mad or not.”
“What makes them mad”? asked a 10 year old guest.
“I’m not sure. Monkeys? Maybe even a snake.”
The macaw screams became louder and clearer the higher they climbed. Two macaw silhouttes flew around in a big circle above the treetops. The guide used his binoculars to check the area where the macaws were flying around. Suddenly, he let out a gasp and exclaimed in a harsh whisper, “Harpy Eagle!”
He focused a telescope on the bird at the avian king of the rainforest canopy. “We are very lucky today! Harpy Eagles are rare. You dont see them away from nests. They occupy huge territories. Now I understand why the macaws were so upset. Although this huge eagle mostly feeds on mammals, they also eat macaws!”
The Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja) is the largest raptor in the Amazon rainforest and one of the biggest eagles in the world. Although there are healthy populations of this majestic bird in the Peruvian rainforests of Tambopata, they are very difficult to see.
How to Identify a Harpy Eagle:
To learn to identify harpies download our illustrated plates and our photographic guide to Amazon Rainforest Animals.
Here are a few interesting facts about the Harpy Eagle:
- An Amazonian apex predator: In the Amazon rainforest, Harpy Eagles share the top of the food chain with Jaguars and Anacondas. The Jaguar rules the forest floor, the Anaconda is king is swamps and lakes, and the Harpy Eagle dominates the canopy of the rainforest.
- What do they eat?: Harpy Eagles are commonly believed to solely prey upon sloths and monkeys. However, recent studies in Tambopata discovered that they catch and eat a variety of animals. They also take large birds such as toucans, kinkajous, and will even kill Brocket Deer!
- Oversized beak and talons: Harpy Eagles look especially intimidating due to their huge, Grizzly Bear sized claws and massive beak. The legs of the Harpy Eagle can also be nearly as thick as the wrist of a person!
- A wide-ranging, rare bird: This big eagle historically occurred in rainforests from southern Mexico all the way south to the Atlantic coast of Brazil. However, they need large tracts of animal-filled rainforest to survive and have thus disappeared from many areas of their range.
How to plan your Amazon Travel to see Harpy Eagle and other Amazon Wildlife:
- Visit a nest site: Since these eagles have huge territories, it’s easiest to see them when they are nesting. Fortunatley, there is an active harpy eagle nest at Refugio Amazonas (thru 2018). It even has its own weekly video blog – the Harpy Cam.
- Watch from a canopy tower: Tour groups (especially birders) spot Harpy Eagle by scanning the rainforest canopy over the course of several hours. To practice, download our Amazon rainforest Animals identification guide, including the beautiful illustrated plate of Amazon mammals.
- Sign up for a Free Trial of the Amazoncam: even if Amazon Travel is not in your short-term plans you can connect with Amazon Wildlife. Sign-up for your free trial of the Wired Amazon and help us identify the Amazon Wildlife that is on the photos taken by our 20 square kilometer grid of 78 cameras snapping away in the middle of the Amazon jungle.
- And of course, if you´re thinking (or even dreaming) of Amazon Travel, drop by to chat with the Amazon Travel experts. We will help you get there.