Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi)

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Philippine eagle, head detail
IUCN Red List species status – Critically Endangered CRITICALLY
ENDANGERED

Top facts

  • The world's largest eagle, the Philippine eagle is sadly Critically Endangered
  • The Philippine eagle can live up to 60 years of age!
  • Also known as the 'monkey-eating eagle', the Philippine eagle feeds mainly on monkeys and flying lemurs
  • Hunting in pairs, one Philippine eagle will act as a decoy, while the other swoops in with a surprise attack on a group of monkeys
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Philippine eagle fact file

Philippine eagle description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderFalconiformes
FamilyAccipitridae
GenusPithecophaga (1)

The Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) is the world's largest eagle, and one of the most threatened raptors. The male and female Philippine eagle are similar in appearance, possessing a creamy white belly and underwing, whilst the upperparts are a rich chocolate-brown, with a paler edge (4). The long feathers of the head and nape form a distinctive, shaggy crest and are creamy-buff in colour with black streaks (5). Philippine eagle chicks have white down, and juveniles are similar in appearance to adults but have white margins to the feathers on the back and upperwing (6). The Philippine eagle has heavy, yellow legs with large, powerful claws (5), and the large, deep bill is a bluish-grey (6).

Also known as
great Philippine eagle, monkey-eating eagle.
Spanish
Aguila Comemonos, Aguila Monera.
Size
Length: 91 cm (2)
Wingspan: 2 m (2)
Weight
6.5 kg (2)
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Philippine eagle biology

The Philippine eagle can live to between 30 and 60 years of age (2). It feeds mainly on flying lemurs, palm civets and monkeys, hence the alternative common name of 'monkey-eating eagle'. Other prey items include rats, snakes, flying squirrels, birds and bats (6) (7). Individuals hunt from perches and slowly move downhill from perch to perch before soaring back up the hill upon reaching the bottom (6). Philippine eagle pairs have been observed hunting together; one individual acts as a decoy, drawing the attention of a group of monkeys towards it while its partner executes a surprise attack from the rear (6). Pairs build an enormous nest high in the canopy, usually on an epiphytic fern; one egg is produced between October and December, and the chick is dependent on its parents for around a year (6).

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Philippine eagle range

This species is endemic to the Philippines and found on parts of the larger islands of Luzon, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao (2). The Philippine eagle was once widespread throughout these islands, and although the current population is unknown it is thought to number fewer than 250 mature individuals (5).

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Philippine eagle habitat

The Philippine eagle inhabits remnant patches of primary dipterocarp forest (5) (6).

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Philippine eagle status

The Philippine eagle is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Critically Endangered

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Philippine eagle threats

Although probably never abundant, the population of the Philippine eagle has undergone a precipitous decline, primarily as the result of habitat destruction (5). Vast tracts of tropical forests in the Philippines have been cleared for commercial development and for shifting cultivation (5). Mining activities and hunting pose further threats to the survival of this majestic bird, and the accumulation of pesticides may be responsible for a reduction in reproductive rate (5).

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Philippine eagle conservation

The Philippine eagle is protected by law in the Philippines and occurs in a number of protected areas (5); international trade and movement of this species is also restricted and controlled by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) (1) (3). The Philippine Eagle Conservation Programme (2) is working on educational campaigns, protecting and monitoring nests and a conservation breeding scheme (7); so far, two captive-bred chicks have been produced with the aim of reintroducing them to the wild (6). In addition, chicks and eggs have been taken from areas of habitat at risk in order to establish a viable captive population from which individuals can be reintroduced to the wild (2). Despite these efforts, however, should habitat loss and subsequent human settlement continue at the current rate it seems doubtful that this majestic species will ever recover.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

For more information on the Philippine eagle see:

  • Philippine Eagle Foundation:
    http://www.philippineeagle.org/
  • BirdLife International (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International. Cambridge, UK.
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Authentication

Authenticated by BirdLife International Secretariat.
http://www.birdlife.org

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Glossary

Dipterocarp
A family of resinous trees that are found in the old world tropics.
Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Epiphytic
A plant that uses another plant, typically a tree, for its physical support, but which does not draw nourishment from it.
Raptors
Birds of prey. Raptors are members of the taxonomic order Falconiformes.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2008)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. WCMC Species Sheets (March, 2008)
    http://www.unep-wcmc.org/species/data/species_sheets/gtphilea.htm
  3. CITES (October, 2002)
    http://www.cites.org/
  4. Erritzoe, J. (1993) The Birds of CITES and How to Identify Them. The Lutterworth Press, Cambridge.
  5. BirdLife International. (2000) Threatened Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, Barcelona and Cambridge.
  6. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1994) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  7. Philippine Eagle Foundation (March, 2008)
    http://www.philippineeagle.org/
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Image credit

Philippine eagle, head detail  
Philippine eagle, head detail

© Neil Lucas / naturepl.com

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