Harpy Eagle is the Amazon's Most Fearful Winged Predator

January 23, 2013
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The harpy eagle is one of the most powerful predators in the Amazon and one of the largest eagle species in the world. This winged hunter preys on monkeys, sloths, reptiles, rodents and other birds, and the sight of a harpy eagle snatching a monkey from a tree branch with ease is one you won't soon forget if you're lucky enough to witness it on International Expeditions’ Amazon river cruises.

Harpy eagles make their homes in the the jungles of Central America and the Amazon, but due to deforestation, this predatory bird is classified as “Near Threatened” by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. These massive birds are thought to live anywhere between 25 and 35 years. They stand more than three feet tall and have a wingspan of more than six feet from tip to tip. Their powerful talons are the key to successfully hunting large animals, as they are about five inches long. Sloths make up more than one third of the harpy eagle's diet

This bird is one of the most unique-looking animals in the Amazon, with dark gray wings, a white chest and light gray feathers around the face. Harpy eagles have double-crested heads, and when they are agitated or attempting to instill fear in other creatures a few large feathers that stick up and give them a silhouette not unlike ancient Aztec designs. Their faces are similar to those of owls — flattened with large eyes placed close together in the center of their faces. This likely assists the eagle's hearing and sight to help them better judge distance and spot prey.

When nature travel takes you to the Amazon, don't expect to see many of these magnificent creatures, as each nesting pair needs about 10 to 15 miles of hunting territory. Keep an eye on the tree branches for a chance to see these hunters waiting patiently for their dinner. These daytime hunters will perch on branches for long periods of time while they wait for the perfect opportunity to snatch up their prey. They have to be quick to grab their meals, and can reach speeds up to 50 miles per hour when they dive bomb their dinner.