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Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja), interesting information!

About Harpy Eagle

The harpy eagle is legendary, despite the fact that few people have seen one in its natural environment. These magnificent birds are named after harpies, the Greek mythological predatory "frightful, winged monsters with hooked beak and claws." This dark gray bird of prey has a highly striking appearance, with feathers atop its head fanning into a prominent crest when attacked. Similar to owls, several tiny gray feathers form a face disk that may concentrate sound waves to assist the bird's hearing.

As is the case with the majority of eagles, the female "harpy" is almost double the size of the male. The harpy eagle's legs may be as thick as a small child's wrist, and its curved, rear talons are 5 inches (13 cm) long, longer than grizzly bear claws! While the harpy is not the biggest bird of prey (that honor goes to the Andean condor), this remarkable species is unquestionably the heaviest and most powerful of birds.

Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja)


Harpy eagles reside in wooded regions from Mexico to northern Argentina. Despite their large wingspan, which may grow up to 6.5 feet (2 meters), harpies fly with excellent agility through their woodland habitat. Harpies prefer silk-cotton trees (kapok trees) for nesting and often construct nests 90 to 140 feet (27 to 43 meters) above the ground. They like trees with widely separated branches because they provide a clear passage to and from the nest. Harpies construct the nest's massive structure from thick sticks and line it with softer greens, seedpods, and animal hair to keep it warm and pleasant. A harpy nest is around 4 feet (1.2 meters) thick and 5 feet (1.5 meters) in diameter, big enough to accommodate a human! After constructing a nest, an eagle couple may reuse and rebuild it for many years.

Harpy eagles are a robust, quiet species that seldom vocalize. They howl (wheee, wheee-ooooo), croak, whistle, click, and mew when they are heard.

Harpies are excellent at conserving energy. You will never witness a harpy eagle fly over a rainforest canopy. Rather than that, the mighty harpy soars under the forest canopy, using its enormous talons to pick up monkeys and sloths weighing up to 17 pounds (7.7 kilograms)! A harpy is capable of attaining speeds of up to 50 miles per hour during a severe pursuit (80 kilometers per hour). It dives to the ground and captures its prey with extended feet.

Additionally, the harpy's short, wide wings enable it to soar virtually straight up, allowing it to attack prey from below as well as above. Additionally, the harpy eagle's head may be turned upside down to gain a better view of its probable prey. The bird hangs calmly in a tree for hours — up to 23! — waiting for unexpected prey. It has superb eyesight and can see objects as small as one inch (2 cm) in diameter from about 220 yards (200 meters).

A harpy eagle's lethal talons may exert several hundred pounds (nearly 50 kg) of pressure, breaking the bones of its prey and quickly killing it. Additionally, a harpy consumes opossums, porcupines, juvenile deer, snakes, and iguanas. Heavier prey is dragged to a stump or low limb and half consumed, since it is too heavy to carry to the nest complete. The harpy's primary food source is in the rainforest canopy and understory, rather than on the forest floor. The bigger females prey on sloths and monkeys, while the smaller, more agile, and quicker males prey on a variety of smaller prey species. This enhances the pair's likelihood of eating regularly.

The harpy eagles at the San Diego Zoo consume frozen rodents and rabbits.


Harpy eagles are monogamous and may form life-long bonds with their mates. They zealously guard their eggs and young as parents. The mother produces just one or two eggs each clutch and reproduces every two to three years. Both parents incubate eggs, with the female bearing the majority of the burden. The first eaglet to hatch receives all of the care and is hence more likely to survive, while the other egg perishes due to lack of incubation. Therefore, why do females deposit two eggs? The second egg serves as an insurance policy in case the first egg develops a problem. If the first egg does not hatch, the second egg has a reasonable probability of hatching, sparing the parents from having to begin over with a fresh egg!

The freshly born chick is completely white and does not develop adult coloration until its third year. For around ten months, both parents feed the chick. Harpy eagle chicks fledge at around five to six months of age, although they often remain in the nest for over a year, begging for food from their parents. Perhaps arriving once every ten days, the parents supply decreasing amounts of food, requiring Junior to fend for himself.

Once adult, it is fairly uncommon for chicks to return to their "home tree" and nest. Harpies may procreate from the age of five to thirty years and beyond. Given their years of focused parenting, a couple may not have a large number of children in their lifetime.


Harpy Eagle

You could believe that the colossal harpy eagle is invulnerable. However, reconsider. To survive, each harpy eagle couple need many square miles of unbroken forest. Because these eagles are nonmigratory, they hunt continually within their established area. Years of logging, habitat loss, and poaching have wiped out this bird from a large portion of its previous range, particularly the northern portion, and it is now uncommon in many locations. Their primary danger at the moment comes from hunters who kill the birds for fun. Harpy parents produce just one eaglet every two years, which means that if the population of harpy eagles in a given region is diminished, it is difficult for the population to rebound.

Until recently, the only zoo in the United States breeding this endangered bird was the San Diego Zoo. Now, Zoo Miami has successfully raised a chick from parents that came from our Zoo! Since 1992, fifteen harpy eagles have hatched here, and two young were relocated to their original habitat in Panama in 1998. We are continuing our collaboration with The Peregrine Fund, which founded the Harpy Eagle Release Project in 1989, to assist harpy eagles in the wild and to keep these majestic birds aloft.

By donating to the San Diego Zoo Species Alliance, you become a partner in our mission to save and conserve wildlife globally.


25–35 YEARS


Eggs laid per clutch: 1 to 2

53–56 days incubation

Maturity age: 4 to 5 years

Harpy eagle size

35 to 41 inches (89 to 105 cm) in height; females are somewhat bigger than males

Females weigh between 14 and 20 pounds (6.3 and 9 kilograms); males are between 8.5 and 12 pounds (3.8 to 5.4 kilograms)

Up to 6.5 feet in wingspan (2 meters)


Panama's national bird is the harpy eagle.

These magnificent birds are called after Harpyja, the Greek mythological predatory half-woman, half-bird monster.
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