Status: Critically endangered
Known as: Philippine Eagle, Monkey-eating eagle
Estimated numbers left in wild: 250 to 750 birds
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The Philippine eagle is the world’s largest eagle with a wingspan of up to 2 meters, a body length of 90 centimetres, and a weight of 4.5 to 8 kilograms.
In addition to its size, the Philippine eagle is also distinguished by what might be called a ‘mane’ of brown and white feathers on its head. This mane can be raised or lowered at will. The underside of this eagle is white except for the primary and secondary wing feathers and tail, and the upper side is dark brown. The beak and facial mask are black.
As the Philippine eagle’s alternative names suggests, this eagle does eat monkeys and other small primates (including flying lemurs) as its preferred diet.
However, the Philippine eagle also eats bats, snakes, flying squirrels, and rats. These eagles have also been known to take small deer. Philippine eagles will hunt either alone or in pairs, using one of the eagles as a distraction while the second is able to ambush the prey.
The Philippine eagle is monogamous, with pairs mating for life. If one of the pair dies, however, the surviving eagle will usually find another companion.
A pair of these eagles requires about 100 square kilometres of territory, although there is usually some territorial overlap between pairs.
While larger birds of prey are usually proportionately slower than hawks, the Philippine eagle’s flying speed corresponds more closely to that of the faster hawks.
Breeding season for the Philippine eagle occurs in September, and a nest is built high in the canopy of the jungle. The pair produces only one egg, and this chick will remain with the parents for approximately one year. Due to the length of time involved in rearing the young, these eagles only nest every two years.
As this eagle’s name indicates, it is found exclusively in the Philippines, and only on the islands of Luzon, Leyte, Mindanao, and Samar. The majority of these birds are found on the island of Mindanao.
Philippine eagles prefer to live in dense woodland and avoid both open forests and grasslands. However, its range includes both lowland forests and heavily wooded zones in higher elevations, and it has been found at 1,800 meters. This eagle actually prefers areas with a steep landscape.
The greatest threat to the Philippine eagle is habitat destruction. As the Philippine Islands are systematically deforested, the land available to the eagle shrinks yearly.
Logging and agricultural expansion are the major problems, but pesticides and pollution also take a toll, especially as concerns the fertility of the eagles. Poachers still take a few birds, and mining enterprises also destroy the forest areas the eagles need.
It has been estimated that only about 10% of the original forestland in the Philippines still remains.
Several protected reserves offer the Philippine eagle a habitat where it can live a fairly normal existence. Programs have been instituted to provide income for the natives without causing the destruction of the environment.
Legislation exists that prohibits hunting and disturbance of nests and captive breeding programs are in effect that will hopefully allow for the birds to be reintroduced to the wild.
Do you know of or are you a part of an organisation that work to conserve the Philippine Eagle, then please contact us to have it featured on Our Endangered World.