So you’ve been reincarnated as a harpy eagle. Luckily they’re named after the legend and not the nag-hag, but that doesn’t mean your life will be a breeze.

First thing’s first, ignore that other egg next to yours. That was just a backup baby, so you can leave your little sister or brother to chill on their own. Er… I probably could have phrased that better, sorry. But don’t worry, you’re Mum and Dad’s precious angel now, and will be mollycoddled to within an inch of your life for the next year. Oh, and don’t look down, because that’s a good 40 metre drop to the forest floor.

I hope you like monkey, sloth, porcupine and opossum! I also hope you like monkey, sloth, porcupine and opossum that’s been matured in a humid tropical environment for days, because there isn’t exactly a fridge up here.

Hey, you’re getting bigger and more feathery already! And you’ve got the start of a nice head crest, just like Mum and Dad. Don’t make it go up and down too much though, otherwise it looks like you’re alternately calm and terrified. You can raise your facial disk as much as you want though. I know it makes you look a bit like an owl, but can you feel your hearing improve when you do?

It’s a good thing Mum and Dad cleared the flight path around the nest, because you stumble all over the place when you’re flapping about. Then again there’s not much else to do when they’re off getting food, and they’re going away for longer and longer these days. It’s okay, they’re not doing gross adult stuff, they’ll wait until you’ve gone for good first. In the meantime, can you at least pick an outfit and stick with it? Every time you moult your wardrobe changes, and it’s very annoying.

Finally! Now that Mum and Dad have booted you out, and you’ve found a look you’re happy with, it’s time to go out into the jungle expanse.

If there was a particular childhood food that didn’t scar you for life, you can look for it here, either with your facial disk for listening, or your amazing vision. Why don’t you try it out? Cool! You’re a good 200 metres away but you can still see that 2 centimetre metal thing on the ground as clear as day. Wait – what metal thing?

Hmm, here be human hunters, so you’d better move on. You’re the national bird of Panama now, so anyone caught poaching you could go to prison (rather than pay a $15 fine and have their guns taken away), but that’s not much use to you if you’re dead. How about killing two birds with one stone and snatching that howler monkey while you escape? Er, sorry, bad choice of phrasing again.

Nice. He’s a hefty one isn’t he? That was quick and easy work, but then your talons are bigger than a grizzly’s and can crush a human skull, so unless you’re after King Kong you’ve got nothing to worry about. You might want to take him to a higher branch though, just to be safe. Urgh, he’s a bit too hefty. Why don’t you snack on a bit of him here first, then he won’t weigh as much? What, don’t tell me you’ve never had a bite of your shopping on the way home. Oh no, now you’ve done it, there’s someone else on the way who looks hungry.

Huh. It’s a boy, and you can tell he’s man enough for you because he’s got a darker outfit as well. He’s only half your size, but he’s certainly swift. Tell you what, why don’t you and him build a nice big nest and get to know each other? Wow, you two are really hitting it off…er okay I’ll just look this way for a minute. Hmm, there are a lot of chopped down trees on the horizon. If you two are going to settle here for life, you’d better keep an eye on them. You’ll be sat on those eggs for two months, so it’s something for you to think about. For now though, enjoy your throne in the forest canopy. And I say this with utter sincerity: I hope it lasts as long as your breeding bond.

TLDR

Latin: Harpia harpija, so about as original as the fairy lorikeet

What? A massive forest eagle

Where? Central and South America, from Mexico down to northern Argentina

How big? About 0.89-1.05 m / 2.9-3.4 ft tall, with a wing span up to 2 m/6.5 ft.

Endangered? Getting there quickly; IUCN Red List has it as “near threatened” due to logging and hunting.

Probable motto: Soaring is just showboating. Why do that when you rule the forest?

They sound awesome. Do they need my help at all?

They will soon, as does their forest home (shock!).

If you want to swoop in and help birds of prey, the Peregrine Fund has some information for you. They bred and released some harpy eagles in the 1990s, so they know what they’re doing.

The Rainforest Alliance can also help protect the harpy’s home.

 

Just to prove I’m not fibbing (except about the reincarnation bit…)

Guynup, Sharon. 2002. “Conservationists fight to save harpy eagles.” National Geographic News.

Harpy“. No date. Britannica.com.

Harpia harpija.” No date. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Harpy Eagle“. No date. The Peregrine Fund.

Harpy Eagle. Harpia harpija“. No date. San Diego Zoo.

Jungle eagle. Harpy eagle fact sheet.” 2011. PBS Nature.

Mattei et al. 2012. “Performance analysis of the protective effects of bicycle
helmets during impact and crush tests in pediatric skull
models”. Journal of Neurosurgery Pediatrics 10:490-497.

Pomerantz, Aaron. 2017. “Rare harpy eagle found in the Amazon.”

Schulenberg, T. S. 2009. “Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja)“, version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

 

Featured image credit: Natsan