Jungle Eagle
Harpy Eagle Fact Sheet


Class: Aves

Order: Falconiformes

Family: Accipitridae

Genus: Harpia

Species: Harpia harpyja

Size and Weight: The harpy is one of the largest species of eagle. As is often the case with birds of prey, females are larger than males. The birds can grow to 36-40 inches. Females weigh between 13 to 20 lbs (6 to 9 kg). Males weigh between 9 and 11 lbs (4 to 5 kg). Its wings are relatively short, enabling the bird to maneuver through its thick-forested surroundings.

Plumage: The harpy eagle has dark gray feathers with a white underside. A black band of plumage spans its neck and a fan of gray feathers crowns its head. Male and female plumage is identical.

Diet: A hunting carnivore and an apex predator, the harpy eagle preys primarily on tree-dwelling mammals like sloths, monkeys, and opossums. They will occasionally prey on other birds like macaws, and on reptiles like iguanas. Females generally target larger prey because of their size, leaving smaller prey for the males.

Habitat: The birds live in the rainforests of Central and South America. They prefer large expanses of uninterrupted forest and spend the majority of their time in the forest canopy. They are rarely seen flying over the canopy or in open spaces.

Geography: The harpy eagle is found primarily in South America, in countries like Brazil, Ecuador, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, and northeast Argentina. The species is also found in areas of Mexico and Central America, though the populations are far smaller.

Lifespan: The bird’s lifespan is believed to be 25-35 years.

Social Structure and Breeding: Harpy eagles mate for life. Large nests made of sticks and branches and lined with softer materials are built at least 90 feet from the ground in huge trees like the kapok tree, the Brazil nut tree, or the Cambara tree. The harpy couple often reuses the same nest over many years. The female lays two eggs, but once the first egg hatches, the remaining egg is ignored and will not hatch. Both parents spend all their time protecting and raising the chick until it fledges, usually within 6 or 7 months, though it returns to the nest over the next 6-10 months for an occasional free meal. A harpy pair will produce a chick every 2-4 years. Young harpy eagles reach sexual maturity between the ages of 4 and 5.

Conservation Status and Threats: The species is at-risk due to increased habitat loss from development, logging, and agriculture. It’s currently listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN.

Additional Facts:

  • The harpy was first described by Linnaeus in his 1758 Systema Naturae as the Vultur harpyja, after the Greek mythological spirit that had the body of an eagle and the face of a human.
  • The harpy eagle is most closely related to the crested eagle (Morphnus guianesis) and the New Guinea harpy eagle (Harpyopsis novaeguineae).
  • The harpy eagle is Panama’s national bird.
  • Its talons can be as large as the claws of a grizzly bear.
  • As an apex predator, the harpy eagle is often believed to be a key indicator of the health of the forest ecosystem. Where there are healthy numbers of harpy eagles, there are healthy numbers of the species it preys upon.
  • The exact number of harpies is not known. Birdlife International estimated that there were between 20,000 and 50,000 birds in 2009, but those numbers are far from definitive.
  • Betty Segell

    What an incredible eagle! Saw the program on PBS and am enthralled with the camera work and the photograhpers—and, of course, the eagle! The female, feeding its chick, its entire attention focused on the small creature—great pictures. Thank you, photographers for all the patience and time you spent to capture such amazing pictures. And then when the young eagle focuses its attention on the photographers—one wishes for the abilitiy to read its mind.

    Thank you to all who made it possibe for me and all to see such wonders.

  • Gangadaran S. Shepherd

    Words cannot describe my exitement on seeing this program on Harp Eagle. Unfortunately, I started watching after it started as a result I did not know the name of the eagle species and the location where it was filmed. This morning when I opened up the page I was glad to know more about it. The photographers are amazing for their daring contribution to science and to the world. I hope and wish that species like these must be protected at all costs. The life style of these birds are even more amazing. What that was more amazing is the way the mother bird protects the chick when troubled by flies with branches from other trees. The birds themselves are so pretty full of feathers. Great program and great filming.

    Thank you PBS for scheduling this kind of programs.

  • John

    I first heard of the Harpy Eagle when a move came out about it in 1971 called “Harpy”.(http://movies.msn.com/movies/movie/harpy/).

    Ever since then I’ve been fascinated by this bird of prey!

  • Lila

    Amazing show!!!! Always imagined how difficult it is too shoot such a reclusive specimen, but the great patience and passion the team put into photograhing this was superb. I fell in love with the baby..such a beautiful specimen. Thanks for this opportunity.

  • Joan Crews

    Great program, beautiful birds and wonderful photography. Thank you Thank you

  • Charles

    Love the show… Such magnificent animals! The show is being rebroadcast so I’m get to watch it more than once!

  • sister kate

    when GOD created us, HE had a mind for us to live in close harmony with all creatures of nature in the garden HE so lovingly prepared for us all. To even be able to peek into this Magnificent bird’s world is truly a blessing, and i find myself wondering very often, what is the young harpy up to right now? i want so much to be able to look into his eyes and have him look into my soul the way he did with Fergus. i miss him,even.His face and especially those black crystal eyes are etched onto my heart in a very enchanting way. Thank You fellas for going to such extremes to open up his world to the rest of us. Someday WE will mount up with wings as eagles! Shalom.

  • Solowizard

    I’m shocked that they failed to mention that this bird is also found in the Philippines where it is known as the Philippine Eagle, or The Monkey Eating Eagle.

  • c c coggins

    How did the eagles get to or from the Philipines?

    Does anyone know where there is evidence, visual or in published reports, of Harpy Eagles actually catching and eating Howler Monkeys? There is a general belief that they do.

  • Ken Lockwood

    As a Bird of Prey rehabilitator , ( http://www.eaglevalleyraptorcenter.org), Seeing the Harpy in the wild, only encourges me to work with and teach students about Birds of Prey. Holding a Harpy on the Glove is on my “Bucket List” of things to do on this earth!

  • Sandi Hubbard

    They said in this fact sheet that 2 eggs would be laid, but the second egg, after the 1st hatching, would be ignored. So why am I watching a harpy nest with 3 eaglets in it? Two who look about the same age, and the third seems to be a week or so younger – just my observation judging from the feathers on each chick. Does anyone have an answer?



  • Laila

    i choose this animal for my rain forest animal research . This eagle is so cool . I luv this animal

  • gary

    I am doing a project for an animal… its so interesting.!

Produced by THIRTEEN    ©2014 THIRTEEN Productions LLC. All rights reserved.

PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.