Description of the Harpy Eagle

By Naomi Millburn

Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

The harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja) is a strong and sizable species of bird that is part of the family Accipitridae. The carnivorous raptors are imposing predators, and readily consume the flesh of a wide array of different animals, including opossums, sloths and iguanas. The deep gray birds live both in South and Central Americas.

Geography and Habitat Description

The harpy eagle lives in South and Central America's tropical lowland rainforests, particularly in especially dense areas. The eagles tend to remain in the forest canopy. The harpy eagle geographic scope includes countries such as Venezuela, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Suriname, French Guiana, Colombia, Belize, Peru, Panama, Guyana, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Brazil and Ecuador. However, the elusive birds may be extinct in some of those regions, particularly those in Central America. Due to forest ruination, the population of harpy eagles is on the decrease. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species placed the eagles in the "near threatened" group in 2012.

Size Description

In terms of physical size, the harpy eagle is a very big bird. They usually are in the range of somewhere between 35 and 41 inches long. Female harpy eagles tend to be significantly bigger than the males. The weight range for the females is between 14 and 20 pounds, while the range for the males is between 8.5 and 12 pounds, indicates the San Diego Zoo. From one tip to the other, the harpy eagle is capable of measuring upwards of 7 feet.

Physical Description

The coloration of the harpy eagle is deep gray, although they are white underneath. Their chests all feature prominent black ridges. Their wide yet short wings have a somewhat circular shape to them. These eagles' eye colors are generally either brown or gray. The yellow feet and legs make way for very big black talons that are around five inches in length. Their heads all feature double crests that consist of light gray, sizable feathers. The eagles all possess very prominent, dark and angular bills.

Diet Description

These hunting creatures are meat eaters through and through. These eagles typically go after animals that reside within trees -- think opossums, sloths and monkeys. Out of trees, however, harpy eagles also frequently go after other types of creatures, including fellow birds such as macaws. Other components of the harpy eagle diet are reptiles, rodents and porcupines. The oft-intimidating eagles utilize both their talons and feet to swipe prey animals straight out of their normal environments.

Lifestyle Description

If you ever think you caught an uber-rare glimpse of a harpy eagle, consider whether the individual was alone. These eagles are very solitary animals, and usually go about their business by themselves. The prominent exception, is, of course, mating activity.

Photo Credits

  • Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images