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What Is a Philippine Eagle?

By A. Delgado
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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The Philippine eagle, or Pithecophaga jefferyi, is a large bird of prey with a crown of long feathers on its head and neck. This species lives in the rain forests of the Philippines. Although they are sometimes called "monkey-eating eagles," their diet also consists of several other species of mammals and other birds. Male and female breeding pairs remain together for life and produce one egg every two years. Philippine eagles are highly endangered due to habitat destruction, hunting and mining, although they are protected under international law.

Mottled brown feathers on the back and white feathers on the chest and legs provide the Philippine eagle with camouflage among the trees as it stalks its prey. Other noticeable physical features include brownish-white crown feathers, a large, dark gray beak, bright yellow legs and light bluish-gray eyes. They are one of the biggest species of eagles in the world. Adults measure between 35 and 40 inches long (90 to 100 cm), weigh an average of 14 pounds (6 kg) and have an average wingspan of 6.5 feet (2 m). Females are typically larger than males.

Philippine eagles are found on the Philippine islands of Luzon, Mindanao, Samar and Leyte. They inhabit the dense forests from the lower regions up to altitudes of around 5,900 feet (1,800 m) above sea level. Territorial sizes for each pair of eagles ranges from 5 to 10 square miles (12 to 25 square kilometers).

The Philippine eagle uses stealth and sometimes a bit of help from its partner to hunt for food. It sits in the branches of trees and dives towards its prey, grabbing it with powerful talons. When hunting in pairs, one eagle distracts the prey while the other swoops down on it. The eagle's diet includes lemurs, monkeys, small deer, bats, birds and reptiles.

Pairs of male and female Philippine eagles remain monogamous until the death of one partner. They engage in a few different courtship rituals, such as diving towards the ground, soaring in circles and displaying their talons. Females lay one egg during each breeding cycle, which occurs every two years. Both eagles take part in incubating the egg and feeding the eaglet for the first eight weeks after birth.

Philippine eagles are classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The most recent population estimates show that there are between 180 to 500 adult eagles in the wild. Widespread loss of habitat for commercial and agricultural reasons has contributed to the species' decline, along with threats from hunters and mining activities. Low reproductive rates have also inhibited the population's growth. The Philippine eagle receives international protection under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which outlaws the capture and trade of the species.

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