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Harpy Diaries : Elpis, The Harpy Eagle Chick Gets Her Wings

[fa icon="calendar"] Dec 18, 2017 7:54:58 AM / by Daniel Couceiro

Daniel Couceiro

First, congrats to the winner of the Harpy Chick Naming contest! I want to share the name of our beloved five-month-old harpy chick from Refugio Amazonas is Elpis, which means Hope in Greek.

I think this name fits perfectly, since the chances of being a female increase every day (because it is a very big chick!). Also, a great part of our job here is showing you the stories and wonders of the most powerful eagle in the Amazon, so we are thrilled that each day more and more people learn and care about the harpies and their habitat.  In fact, this is Wired Amazon´s ultimate goal: to spread some good news and hope about the future of the Amazon rainforest and its inhabitants.

Let me share what has been happening this past month. At this point, Elpis, the harpy eagle chick,  has almost attained adult size. This is great timing because the first heavy rain of the season poured down in the Peruvian rainforest, which means that she can stand through all the rainstorms without any problem (just with a long face!).

 

Elpis, the harpy eagle chick, after a storm in the rainforest.Elpis after a downpour, time to fly "solo" ? .

 

We have been seeing Elpis training and strengthening ´her’ wings successfully for the last month and a half. To train, “she” has been jumping and spreading them. But, as I commented in the last blog, we were afraid about the moment of truth, when she will begin to fly from branch to branch and where a tiny miscalculation could lead to a fatal fall.

Well, something like that almost happened. A heavy storm made a branch fall into the nest, with a portion of it sticking out of the nest itself. So, Elpis decided to practice, taking small flights from the middle of the nest to this particular thin/light branch (check image below).

 

Elpis, the harpy eagle chick, exercising its wings.Elpis balancing on a stick, not a safe move.

 

Everything was fine, until on one of these flights, she decided to start walking towards the edge of the branch.  So, now our harpy chick is pretty heavy (4.5-5 Kilograms, about 10 pounds) so gravity had its part to play! Elpis destabilized the branch and lost all her balance making us fear the worst... But, fortunately, she reacted incredibly fast by spreading the wings and scratching the lower part of the nest and the adjacent branch, and made it back to the nest!  We were happy that practice time ended with no negative consequences!

 

 

These kinds of situations are the ones we fear. Luckily, on the next few days she went on with her regular (less risky, I have to say) flights, until December the 4th, when Elpis made her first flight out of the nest! And, of course, she chose mom’s favorite perching spot, the fork just above the nest. (If you want to see it, just keep watching the weekly videos in our Youtube channel, it will appear soon!)

It seems that finally, the period of the chick’s life when the biggest probabilities of death occur has come to an end. She is big enough to deal with a tayra, with any storm and she can successfully fly around the nest. There is always a small chance that something might happen, but the odds are in her favor now.

So, I feel confident to say that Elpis’s life enters will now enter a calm period, where she will probably fly around the nest, looking for new perching spots to watch over and will be getting more and more familiar with the different preys, both, Bawaaja and Kee Wai bring to the nest.

I say goodbye until next month, when I will write about Elpis from a different approach, happy holidays and New Year for everybody!

Follow our HarpyCam for weekly video updates on the Harpy chicks’ progress.

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Topics: Harpy Eagle, HarpyCam, harpy eagle nest, harpy eagle chick

Daniel Couceiro

Written by Daniel Couceiro

My thesis was about the ecology and human influence on the community of wintering shorebirds on the coast of northwestern Spain. My next step was taking part in a project about the conservation and reintroduction of the osprey, also in Spain. This contact with raptors led me to cross the ocean and to come to Peru to get involved in a study of the harpy eagle, the most powerful raptor in the world, to monitor its behavior and how the community of monkeys (one of its main prey) behave in its territory. Of course, I fell in love with the jungle and I came at the beginning of 2016 to work as the field assistant of this awesome project, the Wired Amazon. After a few months I was designed as director and now my research interest is focused on different aspects of tropical ecology, as well as coordinate the correct functioning of the three different projects that form the Wired Amazon

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