Biggest Eagles in the World Are So Huge, That Their Talons Are Bigger Than Bear Claws

Image: Clément Jacquard [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The harpy eagle is an eye-catching species with its expressive face, feathered collar, and black and grey tones and it is a well-known figure on the internet due to its enormous size and distinctive look. If its distinctive look isn't enough, its size and wingspan are. Like a puppet from Jim Henson's Labyrinth.

These large birds of prey may grow to be 3 feet 5 inches tall and have a wingspan of up to 7 feet 4 inches.

People routinely post photos of the massive eagle on Reddit, where they marvel at its size. A female bald eagle may weigh up to 12 pounds, whereas a female harpy eagle can weigh anywhere from 13 to 20 pounds. It's worth mentioning that a male harpy eagle will weigh between 9 and 13 pounds while female eagles are always stockier than their male counterparts.

Due to the environment, despite its total size, its wingspan is slightly less than that of other eagles. From Mexico through Brazil and northern Argentina, these uncommon birds can be found in the high canopy of tropical lowland rainforests. In contrast to other eagle species that mostly soar in broad, open regions, their shorter wings aid them in navigating through the forest. Even yet, the harpy eagle is still the world's biggest eagle.

In terms of looks, males and females have the same black, grey, and white feathers, with elevated feathers on the head giving the bird a puzzled face. Take heed of the harpy eagle's formidable talons if its gothic appearance wasn't enough to scare you. The back talons which measure 5 inches in length are larger than a grizzly bear's claws. No other eagle has talons as huge as this one. It should come as no surprise that the harpy eagle is at the top of its food chain given its strength.

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What do harpy eagles consume, exactly?

This raptor prefers sloths and monkeys as prey. They don't soar for vast distances very often. They have more than enough strength to lift tiny animals weighing up to 17 pounds because they conserve their energy. These eagles are silent hunters that would remain at a perch for hours on end, just waiting for a portion of food to pass by. With the ability to fly at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour, they can easily swoop down and snare their prey.

Unfortunately, as rainforest development reduces their habitat, harpy eagles are becoming increasingly scarce in Latin America. Because harpy eagles are monogamous and only have one eaglet every two years, even a small decrease in population might make recovery difficult. In some ecosystems, the extinction of this apex predator represents major damage to the ecology. For example, their hunting of creatures like capuchin monkeys serves to naturally keep populations in check. This is significant because these monkeys take eggs from bird nests and might lead to the extinction of other species if they are not controlled.

The harpy eagle is the world's biggest living eagle, with talons as huge as a Grizzly bear's claw.

Harpy Eagle Claw

Image: Stock Photos from worldswildlifewonders/Shutterstock

Image: Stock Photos from Alfredo Maiquez/Shutterstock

They are endemic to the high canopy of lowland rainforests, but deforestation is reducing their habitat.

Image: Stock Photos from Chepe Nicoli/Shutterstock

Image: Stock Photos from Thorsten Spoerlein/Shutterstock

Many of them now are found in North and South American zoos and environmental parks.

Image: Stock Photos from guentermanaus/Shutterstock

Facts about the Harpy Eagle:

  • Carl Linnaeus' 1758 Systema Naturae has the earliest recorded account of the harpy eagle. The bird is called the Vultur harpyja, after a Greek legendary entity with the body of an eagle and the face of a human. This is why many people believe the bird is nothing more than a legend.
  • Harpy eagles are the largest and most powerful birds in the jungle.
  • Harpy eagles and African crowned eagles compete for the title of the world's most powerful eagle.
  • Their talons are powerful enough to crush bones. (They can exert over 110 pounds of force.)
  • Harpy eagle nests are sparsely dispersed throughout vast swaths of rainforest, well concealed under the canopy of the trees. This makes them incredibly difficult to locate and research.
  • Their massive long-lasting stick nests are around 1.2 meters (3.9 feet) deep and 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) broad.
  • The harpy eagle has been designated as Panama's national bird.
  • Even though they are birds of prey, harpy eagles have been attacked and devoured by ocelots and jaguars on rare occasions.
  • Harpy eagles have been known to “steal” poultry, lamb, goats, and even piglets from commercial operations.
  • Harpy eagles manipulate their face feathers in the same way that owls do to guide sound waves to their ears and increase their hearing.
  • Fawkes the Phoenix (Dumbledore's animal friend) in the Harry Potter film series was inspired by the harpy eagle.

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