Its vision captivates your brain and heart. It is so majestic, so powerful, that even its name has a mythological component; flying creatures with a woman’s face and sharp claws that kidnapped and tortured people before carrying them to hell.
Its name means “the one who flies and steals”. It is well earned. Yes, we are talking about the Harpy Eagle.
The second heaviest and longest eagle in the world has its playground in the jungles of Central and South America, spreading fear among the communities of arboreal mammals of these dense rainforests that it preys on, especially sloths and monkeys.
These mammals fear its massive talons, bigger than those of a Grizzly Bear, they can reach a length of 13-14 cm! When people see them for the first time, one common question is: “can they attack humans”? They definitely do not, but, they could if they wanted.
Today, I want to tell my story about this magnificent dinosaur. She is the reason why I am working in the middle of the Peruvian Amazon. I say “she” because when you see her close to the male, you understand who rules in that monogamous-forever couple.
My name is Daniel Couceiro, and I am from Coruña, a small town in northwestern Spain, and I first came to the Amazon rainforest two years ago as an assistant of a research project conducted by Dara Adams, a Ph.D from Ohio University. My role was to spend between 4 and 6 hours per day observing and taking behavioral data about a pair of Harpy Eagles and their chick in a nest located 30 meters high, in an Ironwood Tree.
Most of the time, I was looking, recording, taking pics and studying the behavior of this wonderful chick whom I ended up calling “Jupiter” because the giant planet was clearly visible in the night sky during my time in Tambopata.
Those were, without any kind of doubt, two of the most exciting months of my life as a biologist, and convinced me to decide that I wanted to remain working here, in the heart of the Amazon.
No matter that it was hot as hell itself, rainy as the universal flood, with a storm that made the trees fall apart and the sky look like judgment day; or a beautiful calm jungle day, we both were there every day. He was learning how to fly by spreading his wings constantly, jumping from branch to branch and making small flights to a nearby tree; which animals he was going to prey on for the rest of his life (sometimes the parents bring live prey so the chick can learn to kill, thus recording the perfect image of his present and future food); and of course, growing and getting bigger and bigger.
Meanwhile, I was just there, growing as a biologist and thinking how lucky I was to be allowed to enjoy moments as this one:
That wasn’t just one more wonderful day there, the perfect sight of a Harpy Eagle mom feeding her chick is something I will never forget.
But well, everything has an end. So, after a couple of months I returned to Spain again. But the seed had been planted inside of me.
Daniel is now back in Tambopata as the Director of Wired Amazon. Him and his team are montoring the worlds first HarpyCam. We are uploading exciting footage of the Harpy Couple and their soon to be named chick, to our YouTube Page.
Have a question about Harpy Eagles? Ask Daniel by writing to [email protected]