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HARPY EAGLE } Harpia harpyja

RANGE: Central America and northern South America

STATUS: The harpy eagle is classified as Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species lists it as Threatened by Extinction. This species is sparsely distributed and generally rare throughout its range.

THREATS: Logging, destruction of nest sites, hunting, and poaching

Here’s a multi-talented bird if ever there was one. The harpy eagle sports a distinctive double crest of feathers on the back of its head that it raises when stressed or alarmed, and smaller feathers framing its face help it to hear nearly as well as an owl. Its talons are the size of a grizzly bear’s claws and it can fly as fast as 50 miles per hour while hunting in thick forest cover. Yet this impressive raptor — undeniably one of the most powerful birds in the world — doesn’t stand a chance against the threats of poaching, logging, and habitat loss. Currently, the Center for Biological Diversity is fighting to prevent hydroelectric dam projects from harming harpy eagles and other rare tropical species in Panama’s La Amistad International Park.

Photo © Robert Scanlon