Harpy Eagle

Harpy eagles, also known as “American harpy eagles,” are the largest species of rainforest-dwelling raptors. These unique predators take advantage of the dense diversity of creatures in the rainforest, with impressive agility and precise eyesight. These eagles are native to Central and South American rainforests. Read on to learn about the harpy eagle.

Harpy Eagle

An adult hand can fit right into the Harpy Eagle’s claw.

The Harpy Eagles’ claws are bigger than an adult human’s hand. No wonder it can pick up large animals for meals! Additionally, the adult eagle’s  talons grow up to 5 inches (13 cm). It’s even longer than the 2-4 inch claw that grizzly bears have on their front paws! The Harpy  Eagle’s legs and talons are so strong that it’s easily capable of exerting over 110 pounds (50 kilos) of pressure, which effectively crushes its prey’s bones. The proud eagle’s talons are comparable to a Rottweiler’s jaw when holding on to a victim.

Adult hand & Harpy claw

Diet of the Harpy Eagle

The primary prey types for harpies are tree-dwelling mammals, mainly sloths, and monkeys. Sloths appear to be an important part of their diet, and in some studies, sloth species comprised over 70% of the prey brought to hatchlings. Monkeys are also common prey, and some species regularly taken are capuchin, saki, howler, titi, spider, and squirrel monkeys. Some other, albeit uncommon prey, include reptiles, parrots, kinkajous, coatimundis, anteaters, porcupines, opossums, and armadillos.

Harpy Eagle

Harpy Eagle and Human Interaction

Habitat loss poses the greatest threat to harpies. The rainforests that they live in is cut down for logging, cattle, crop farming, and oil prospecting. These large birds are also subject to retaliation killings, as farmers have reported the killing of livestock.

Harpies hunting livestock is extremely rare in normal conditions, but in areas of disturbed forests, the massive birds have been known to prey on small livestock. Luckily for the harpy, there are a number of initiatives in place to preserve the rainforest, and captive breeding programs have been breeding and reintroducing these birds to the wild to bolster the population.

Harpies would not make good pets. They require lots of flying space for exercise to prevent feather breakage and impacts with the sides of the enclosure. These eagles are also quite large and have powerful talons and a sharp beak that can easily tear open human skin.

The behavior of the Harpy Eagle

Harpies are highly territorial, and require several square miles of rainforest to survive and reproduce. They protect their territory from other eagles, allowing them to have a consistent food source. Pairs of eagles will mate for life, and nest in the same territory. Females take most of the responsibility with raising the chicks, but males also participate. Both harpy parents will viciously defend their young from predators.

Reproduction of the Harpy Eagle

Harpies build massive nests, up to five feet across and three feet deep. Female eagles will lay two eggs, and only reproduce every two or three years. Both parents will incubate the eggs for nearly two months, and usually, only one chick will hatch. Harpy chicks begin to fly at about six months old but will remain reliant on their parents for another six to ten months. The chicks will not reach sexual maturity until they are between four and six years old.

SpeciesHarpia harpyja
NicheApex Predator
Length2-3.5 feet (86-107 cm)
Weight9-20 lbs (4-9 kg)
LifespanUp to 35 years
Social StructureMated Pairs
Conservation StatusNear Threatened
Preferred HabitatTropical Forests of South America
Average Clutch Size2 eggs, though typically only 1 offspring survives
Main Prey SpeciesTree-Dwelling mammals, especially sloths and monkeys
PredatorsLarge cats, humans
Harpy with Wings lifted


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