harpy eagle

   Harpy eagles (birds of prey) are the largest and most powerful eagle in the world. They inhabit the tropical forests of Central and South American, ranging from Southern Mexico to Argentina. The female harpy averages three and a half feet in length and weighs about twenty pounds; her wingspan is about six and a half feet. Typically, the male is about one third smaller than the female. The plumage of both sexes is alike.
   A harpy eagle's lifespan is estimated to be 25 to 35 years in the wild.
   Harpy eagles hunt during the day. Rather than soaring like bald and golden eagles, harpies glide over the rainforest treetops hunting prey which consists of mostly canopy dwellers such as sloths and monkeys, but occasionally they will hunt at ground level for snakes and rodents. Their talons can be up to five inches long. A female can kill prey weighing twenty pounds, but has to tear it apart to transport it.
   Harpy eagles mate for life; they reproduce every three years. The four to five feet in diameter nest of a harpy is usually built in a tall tree, about 150 to 225 feet above the ground. Typically, two eggs are laid, but only one eaglet will be raised. The incubation cycle is about eight weeks. The male brings food for both the female and their eaglet. Six months after hatching the eaglet is able to leave the nest, but remains near the nest for about a year. Harpy eagles will not abandon their nest or young as other eagles sometimes do; instead, they will attack intruders.
   The harpy eagle is an endangered species; depletion of the rainforests is a constant threat. The Harpy Eagle Conservation Program works with South American governments, logging companies, and local people to protect nesting sites.