The harpy eagle is a majestic bird which gets its name from a mythical monster.
In Greek mythology, harpies were half-bird, half-human hybrids with the body of a bird and the face of a human.
The harpy eagle, thankfully, doesn’t have a human face, but its sheer size makes it easy to understand why it’s been given such an evocative name.
Harpy eagles usually weigh between 4 and 9 kilos (the males tend to be about half the size of the females) and sport a wingspan of 176 to 224 cm.
The harpies’ massive size and eerily expressive faces make them both wonderful and unsettling to look at.
Some people claim that they almost look unreal – like they’re just human beings parading around in bird costumes.
The harpy eagle is most commonly found in Brazil, but can also be found throughout Central America and various parts of South America.
They’re formidable hunters, have the largest talons of any now-living eagle, and are pretty much at the top of the food chain.
They mainly keep a diet of monkeys – such as capuchin monkeys, howler monkeys, and spider monkeys – and other tree dwellers.
They’re also fond of eating sloths, which they snatch right off the trees with the help of their long, sharp talons.
The harpies tend to build their nests high up in the trees, usually in a kapok tree, which is one of the tallest trees in South America.
Unfortunately, the harpy eagle population is in decline.
At the moment, the International Union for Conservation of Nature deems the harpy eagle to be of “near threatened” status.
This is mainly due to loss of habitat, as a result of logging, agriculture, etc.
However, the harpies have also become targeted by hunters.
This is partly because some people feel threatened by their size and are afraid that the harpies will hurt them or their animals, and partly because their impressive size makes them tempting hunting trophies.
There have been reports of harpy eagles capturing livestock, such as lambs and piglets, but such occurrences are very rare.
The harpies usually focus on tree-dwelling prey and do not pose a significant threat to humans or to livestock.
Thankfully, initiatives to save the harpy eagle have been put in place in several different countries.
And in Brazil, the National Institute of Amazonian Research is conducting a huge research project for the benefit of the harpy eagle.
We’re so glad people are looking out for these incredible birds.
It’s wonderful to live in a world with so many different beautiful and fascinating creatures.
Online, these majestic birds have gained a lot of admirers.