Saturday 15 June
New Guinea harpy eagle (Harpyopsis novaeguineae)
New Guinea harpy eagle fact file
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New Guinea harpy eagle description
This elusive eagle inhabits the canopy of rainforest on the island of New Guinea, where its deep, resonating calls and grunts are frequently heard (4). Female harpy eagles are larger than males, and have an enormous wingspan of up to two meters (2). Its plumage is greyish-brown, with barring on the wings and tail, and a pale brown upper breast (4). Both sexes have a distinctive erectile ruff around the neck (2). The muscular, long legs and feet are bare (2), with sharp talons with which to grip their prey, and the powerful, hooked bill is capable of tearing at flesh (5).
- Arpía Papúa.
New Guinea harpy eagle biology
Whilst the New Guinea harpy eagle is frequently seen and heard, very rarely have individuals been observed at close range for extended periods of time (7). It is an accomplished predator, known to feed primarily on ground- and tree-dwelling mammals (2). This includes possums, wallabies, tree-kangaroos, giant rats, and even young dogs and pigs (2), but it will also prey on birds and reptiles (2), such as snakes and large monitor lizards (7). They hunt by day, perched in the forest canopy, searching the ground and surrounding trees for prey. Like other birds of prey, it is likely to have acute eyesight (5), and its facial ruff is though to assist in the detection of prey by sound (2). Once spotted, the harpy eagle swoops down from its perch and seizes the prey in its feet, and will run and leap along the ground in pursuit if necessary (2). Hiding among foliage or in holes is not always sufficient protection from this committed hunter; the New Guinea harpy eagle will strike at foliage with its wings, or tear at it with its feet, to flush the prey hidden within, and it can use its powerful feet to extract prey from holes (2).
The New Guinea harpy eagle is a solitary breeder, and constructs large stick nests high up in a tree (2). It apparently breeds from the wet season through to the dry season; a nest was seen in use from April to May (2), and it is thought that this bird may not breed every year (6). In captivity, the New Guinea harpy eagle has lived for more than 30 years (2).Top
New Guinea harpy eagle rangeTop
New Guinea harpy eagle habitat
The New Guinea harpy eagle inhabits rainforest, from sea-level up to elevations of 3,700 meters (6). It is most common in undisturbed forest, but has also been seen in forest clearings and native gardens (2).Top
New Guinea harpy eagle statusTop
New Guinea harpy eagle threats
Hunting poses a significant threat to this magnificent bird. In much of New Guinea it is hunted with shotguns, for its tail and flight feather which are used in ceremonial head-dresses (6). Hunting pressure is greatest around densely inhabited areas, and this has resulted in numbers of the New Guinea harpy eagle being significantly reduced, or even extirpated, in the most densely inhabited regions (6). The rising availability of guns in Papua New Guinea increases the threat of hunting, as does logging, which creates roads that open up previously inaccessible areas for the hunters to penetrate (6). Hunters may also impact the harpy eagle through competition for large mammalian prey (6), and deforestation in the New Guinea lowlands is gradually reducing the available habitat for nesting and foraging (2).Top
New Guinea harpy eagle conservation
The New Guinea harpy eagle is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that any international trade in this species should be carefully regulated (3). In Papua New Guinea the harpy eagle is protected by law, although this is apparently rarely enforced (6), and it occurs in several protected areas (6). In 1999, the Peregrine Fund initiated a project with the goal of studying the biology of the harpy eagle, understanding its ecological requirements and promoting its conservation (8). Further measures are clearly needed to protect this awesome bird of prey, and actions including investigating hunting levels, discouraging the use of feathers in head-dresses, and using the harpy eagle as a flagship species of ecotourism, which would provide economic incentives for its protection, have all been proposed (6).Top
Find out more
For further information on the New Guinea harpy eagle see:
This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
IUCN Red List (September, 2007)
- del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1994) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
CITES (September, 2007)
BirdLife International (September, 2007)
- Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.
- BirdLife International. (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.
- Beehler, B.M., Crill, W., Jefferies, B. and Jefferies, M. (1992) New Guinea harpy-eagle attempts to capture monitor lizard. Emu, 92: 246 - 247.
The Peregrine Fund (September, 2007)
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