In south east Asia a monkey eating eagle rules the skies. While their size is impressive their numbers are not. On this episode we’ll take a look at the world’s largest eagle.
The Philippine Eagle, being the world’s largest, is not only iconic for it’s size but it’s look.
Sporting a full head of hair, white belly and dark brown wings, this is the last eagle you want to have circling you when you’re walking your dog.
These massive eagles have a 6.5 foot or 2 meter wingspan and stand 3 feet or 1 meter tall. They weigh in at 16.5 pounds or 7.5 kgs but I should note these numbers are for the females who are larger than the males. Despite their extraordinary size, the Philippine Eagle has evolved to be able to fly out of dense jungle almost vertically with their broad wings and squared off tail.
These birds of prey eat small animals most commonly a diet consisting of flying lemurs, snakes, palm civets, macaque monkeys, lizards, bats and cloud rats. With a 7 inch spread of talons, this eagle once locked onto a target doesn’t give it much hope of surviving. The Philippine Eagle can carry prey 4x it’s own body weight. There’s no wonder how this eagle acquired the nickname as the monkey eating eagle. Believe it or not this eagle will occasionally attack pigs, young goats and dogs as well.
This majestic species of eagle is critically endangered with there believed to be less than 200 left in the wild. The eagle’s low reproduction rate of laying just 1 or 2 eggs a year isn’t helping the problem. They require tall trees that tower over the jungle canopy to reproduce which are often the first target of forestry loggers in the Philippines.
The initial decline of the Philippine eagle happened after World War I when firearms became common. This bird was a high in demand prized bird to be put on display.
Being at the top of the food chain isn’t always the safest as much higher doses of toxins, such as pesticides build up in the body. This eagle along with the Bald Eagle and Peregrine falcon have had their numbers devastated by these environmental pollutants.
Once flourishing on most Philippine islands, the Philippine Eagle has been extirpated from many islands. This removal of the bird changes the ecosystem with one of the top predators missing, the eagle only survives on a few islands today.
A breeding program in Davao City currently houses 36 Philippine Eagles, 18 of which were bred in captivity. Over the 23 years Philippines Eagles have been bred only an additional 26 eagles have come from breeders efforts. 15 of the eagles have been released back into the wild with a few found and brought back to the facility injured, some found dead and only 1 known to be surviving on it’s own. The eagles are now be loaned out for other countries to breed them just as backup in case natural disaster or disease goes through the Philippines.
What are you thoughts on critically endangered animals being bred in captivity to keep the species alive? Do you think this species is doomed, let us know in the comments down below.
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Intro music thanks to Machinmasound:
Rallying the Defense: