The Harpy Eagle—Raptor of the Rain Forest
BY AWAKE! WRITER IN ECUADOR
▪ Early explorers in South America must have been stunned at the sight of this huge bird. They were so impressed that they named it after a frightful half-avian, half-woman monster of Greek mythology—the harpy.
Today the striking appearance of the harpy eagle still inspires wonder. Standing three feet [91 cm] tall and having a wingspan of up to seven feet [2 m], this bird of the Central and South American rain forests is one of the biggest and most powerful eagles in the world. Females are the larger sex and can weigh in at 20 pounds [9 kg].
Commensurate with their size, harpy eagles are armed with powerful talons that grow to about five inches [13 cm] in length, twice that of bald-eagle talons. Moreover, according to National Geographic Today, harpy-eagle talons are so strong that they can crush “the bones of the sloths, monkeys, and other prey the eagle snatches from the rain forest canopy, often killing its victims instantly.” Despite the harpy eagle’s great size and formidable weaponry, however, it flies so quietly that it may not even be noticed as it passes overhead.
A Bird in Trouble
Although humans have little to fear from the harpy eagle, the bird has cause to fear man. Poaching and the destruction of its forest habitat have put the bird on the endangered species list, and sightings in the wild are now rare. In an effort to save the harpy eagle, Panama declared it the national bird, and convicted poachers there face stiff sentences.
Harpy-eagle conservation is under way in Ecuador too. In an interview with Awake!, veterinarian Dr. Yara Pesantes of the Guayaquil Historic Park explained that harpy eagles do not become sexually mature until they reach four or five years of age. Even then, they breed in two-year cycles, females laying just one or two eggs at a time. Slow reproduction makes conservation a challenge. But the park’s captive-breeding program has already produced a healthy chick, said Dr. Pesantes.
Soon, however, conservation will no longer be an issue. How so? The Creator, Jehovah God, will take full control of earth’s affairs and prove beyond all doubt that he did not create our planet and its amazing creatures in vain.—Psalm 104:5; Isaiah 45:18.
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Preparing to tag an eagle
Pete Oxford/Minden Pictures
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Tui De Roy/Roving Tortoise Photos