Harpy Eagle

harpycamThe screaming of Red and Green Macaws could be heard as guests of Posada Amazonas reached the canopy tower.

As they began to walk up the tower steps, their guide said, “The macaws are making a lot of noise this morning. It sounds like they are upset about something. However, they always love to make so much noise that it’s hard to say if the macaws are truly mad or not.”

“What would make them mad”? asked a 10 year old guest.

“I’m not sure. Could be monkeys or maybe even a snake.”

As they climbed up into the higher reaches of the forest, the macaw screams became louder and clearer. The silhouettes of two macaws could also be seen through the treetops as they flew around in a big circle. When the group had reached the upper levels of the tower, they could see their guide using 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 quickly focused a telescope on the bird and as guests took turns gazing at the avian king of the rainforest canopy, he told them, “We are very lucky today! Harpy Eagles are rare and hardly ever seen away from nests because they occupy huge territories. Now I understand why the macaws were so upset. Although this huge eagle mostly feeds on mammals, they probably wouldn’t mind eating a macaw or two!”

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.

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?: Although Harpy Eagles are commonly believed to soley prey upon sloths and monkeys, studies carried out in Tambopata have shown that they catch and eat a variety of animals. While they do eat sloths and monkeys, 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 see Harpy Eagle on an Amazon adventure tour:

  • Visit a nest site: Since these eagles have huge territories, it’s easiest to see them when they are nesting. Harpy Eagle nests are occasionally found near the Rainforest Expedition lodges.
  • Watch from a canopy tower: Although you would still have to be lucky to see one, this massive eagle is occasionally seen from canopy towers. Birding tour groups have spotted Harpy Eagle this way by scanning the rainforest canopy over the course of several hours.

Visit the heart of Harpy Eagle country by taking a family friendly, rainforest adventure tour with Rainforest Expeditions!

As Seen in

National Geographic
The Huffington Post
yahoo News
Popular Science