The harpy eagle is at risk of extinction: the situation

Although it has a large range, the harpy eagle is becoming increasingly rare, and its distribution and wild populations have declined markedly

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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The harpy eagle is at risk of extinction: the situation

The harpy eagle's range extends from Mexico, through Central America and into South America to as far south as Argentina. In rainforests, they live in the emergent canopy layer. The species is more common in Brazil, where it is found throughout the national territory.

With the exception of some areas of Panama, the species is almost extinct in Central America, following the clearing of much of the rainforest. The harpy eagle inhabits lowland tropical rainforests, moving within those areas from canopy to emergent vegetation.

They typically move below an altitude of 900 metres, but specimens have been observed at altitudes as high as 2,000 metres. Within the rainforest, they hunt in the canopy or sometimes on the ground and roost in emerging trees in search of prey.

They generally stay away from areas disturbed by deforestation, but visit the semi-open patchwork of forest/grassland regularly, mainly on hunting forays. They can, however, be observed flying over forest edges in a variety of habitats, such as cerrados, caatingas, buriti palms, farmlands, and cities.

They have also been observed in areas where high-level forestry is practiced.

The harpy eagle is at risk of extinction: the situation

Although it has a large range, the harpy eagle is becoming increasingly rare, and its distribution and wild populations have declined markedly.

It is mainly threatened by habitat loss due to excessive deforestation to make way for cattle ranching and intensive agriculture. It is also threatened by hunting, particularly by local populations who see it as a threat to their livestock and/or themselves due to its large size.

Globally, the harpy eagle is considered a vulnerable species according to the IUCN Red List and threatened by CITES. The PeregrineFund, until recently, considered it a conservation-dependent species, meaning that its survival depends on a dedicated effort for captive breeding and release into the wild, as well as habitat protection, to avoid reaches endangered status, but has now accepted near threatened status.

The harpy eagle is considered critically endangered in Mexico and Central America, where it has been extirpated from most of its former range; in Mexico it was once found up to Veracruz, but today it is probably found only in Chiapas in the Selva Zoque.

It is considered locally near threatened or vulnerable in most of the South American portion of its range; in the extreme south of its range, in Argentina, it is found only in the forests of the Paranà Valley, in the province of Misiones. Instead, it disappeared from El Salvador, and almost completely from Costa Rica.