Justification of Red List Category
This species is suspected to be declining rapidly owing to forest loss and degradation, hunting and persecution. It is therefore listed as Vulnerable.
The species is generally rare throughout its range. It has a very large territory and is patchily distributed (Thiollay 1989). In Brazil, it is most common in Amazonia, and rare in the Atlantic forest (Banhos et al. 2018). It is now very scarce in Mexico (A. Monroy-Ojeda in litt. 2021) and in Costa Rica (C. Sánchez in litt. 2021).
Records for the area occupied by one breeding pair include 45-79 km2 in Venezuela, 10-20 km2 in Panama (Alvarez-Cordero 1996), 43 km2 in Peru (Piana 2007), 47.8 km2 and 19.6 (+/- 5.7) km2 in Ecuador (Muñiz-López 2008, 2016), and 14-16 km2 in Panama (Vargas González and Vargas 2011). In the arc of deforestation in Mato Grosso, Brazil, the species was recorded at a nest density of 1.97–4.84 nests/100 km2 of forest habitat, or 0.79–3.07 nests/100 km2 where deforested areas were included in the calculation (Miranda et al. 2021a).
National population size estimates have included 1,000-2,000 mature individuals in French Guiana (MNHN, UICN France and GEPOG 2018), 5,000-10,000 individuals (roughly equivalent to 3,300-6,700 mature individuals) in Peru (Piana 2018) and 806-1,208 pairs (equivalent to 1,612-2,416 mature individuals) in Panama, which was thought likely to be an overestimate (Vargas González and Vargas 2011).
Based on the minimum and median of the above density estimates for Panama, the estimated area of tree cover with at least 50% canopy cover within the mapped range in 2020 (below 310 m and total: approximately 76,700 km2 and 108,000 km2; Global Forest Watch 2021), the population size in Central America is inferred to be within the range of 11,000-22,000 individuals, roughly equivalent to 7,600-15,000 mature individuals.
Based on the minimum and median of the above density estimates for Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador and Brazil, the estimated area of tree cover with at least 50% canopy cover within the mapped range in 2020 (below 310 m and total: approximately 4,380,000 km2 and 6,027,000 km2; Global Forest Watch 2021), the population size in South America is inferred to be within the range of 160,000-421,000 individuals, roughly equivalent to 110,000-281,000 mature individuals.
The global population size is therefore tentatively estimated to fall within the range 118,000-225,000 mature individuals. Hunting and selective logging are likely to have depleted population densities across large parts of the species's range, so the true population size may be lower; to account for uncertainty, the population size is here placed in the band 100,000-250,000 mature individuals.
Genetic analysis in Brazil suggested a single subpopulation in the country (Banhos et al. 2016), so the species is suspected to have a single subpopulation.
From 2001 to 2020, approximately 8% of tree cover with at least 50% canopy cover was lost from within the species's range (Global Forest Watch 2021). Assuming that the annual area of forest loss remains constant and extrapolating forwards, approximately 27% is projected to be lost over three generations (60 years) from 2020. The rate of deforestation within the species's range appeared to be particularly high over 2016-2017 (Global Forest Watch 2021). If the 2016-2020 rate of deforestation were to continue over three generations, a loss of 38% may be projected.
Although the Harpy Eagle appears to be fairly tolerant of degraded forest and human-modified landscapes (Alverez-Cordero 1996; Aguiar-Silva 2016; Bowler et al. 2020), it is unable to tolerate landscapes with less than 50% forest cover remaining (Miranda et al. 2021a) and does not usually cross forest gaps of more than c.500 m (Aguiar-Silva 2016). Furthermore, the species's preference for very large trees as nest sites potentially makes it susceptible to selective logging (Miranda et al. 2020). The species's population size therefore can be assumed to be declining as its forest habitat is lost. Additionally, the species is subject to hunting and persecution across much of its range, which may have a greater impact on the species's population size than deforestation in some areas (E. Miranda in litt. 2021; A. Monroy-Ojeda in litt. 2021). The species is thought to be locally or regionally extinct in large parts of its former range, likely as a result of deforestation and hunting.
Assuming that the species's population size declines at at least the same rate that its habitat is lost, and that hunting and persecution may cause an additional decline of up to 50% of the rate of tree cover loss, the species's population size is suspected to decline by 27-57% over the next three generations (60 years) from 2020. Based on the available information, the best estimate of the rate of decline is considered most likely to fall below 50% over the next three generations. The percentage population size reduction over the past three generations is not known.
Harpia harpyja has an extensive range in southern Mexico (Monroy-Ojeda et al. 2016), Guatemala, Belize (B. W. Miller in litt. 2000; Rotenberg et al. 2012), Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and north-east Argentina. It is thought to be locally or regionally extinct in large parts of its former range, including most of central and north Central America (including El Salvador; Stotz et al. 1996; Portillo-Reyes et al. 2020; M. Giraldo Amaya in litt. 2021), most of the Atlantic forest in Brazil, parts of Bolivia (Llampa 2009) and parts of Venezuela north of the Orinoco river (Sharpe 2008). In Argentina, it is likely to have been extirpated from Formosa, Salta and Jujuy (Chebez et al. 1990, 1994, 1995; Vargas et al. 2006); recent records from Jujuy are likely to refer to a released captive individual (G. S. Cabanne in litt. 2020).
It occurs in lowland tropical forest, typically below 900 m but locally to 2,000 m. It appears to have some tolerance of degraded forest and human-modified landscapes, as long as the forest matrix remains and there are sufficient large trees for nesting sites (Alverez-Cordero 1996; Aguiar-Silva 2016; Bowler et al. 2020) and sufficient availability of prey (Miranda et al. 2021a). It will nest where high-grade forestry has been practised, and uses forest patches within a pasture/forest mosaic for hunting (Bierregaard 1994; Álvarez-Cordero 1996; Parker et al. 1996). However, it is mostly likely to be found in forest with at least 70% cover, and tends to avoid areas of cultivated land (Sutton 2021). A study in the Arc of Deforestation in Brazil found that it requires canopy vertebrate prey for successful breeding, and is unable to tolerate landscapes with less than 50% forest cover remaining (Miranda et al. 2021a). It does not usually cross forest gaps of more than c.500 m (Aguiar-Silva 2016). It nests in very large trees of species such as Ceiba pentandra, Swietenia sp., Enterolobium contortisiliquum, Tabebuia impetiginosa, Berthorelia excelsa, Cavanillesia platanifolia, Cedrelinga catenaeiformis and Huberodendron sp. (Muñiz-López 2008). In the Amazon, it appears to nest in only 28 species of tree (Miranda et al. 2020). It typically nests below 310 m (Piana 2007; Muñiz-López 2008, 2016; González and Vargas 2011). It has been recorded feeding on a wide range of mostly mammalian prey species, including opossoms, primates, anteaters, sloths, armadillos, porcupines, agouties, carnivores and deer, as well as some large bird species (Alvarez-Cordero 1996; Miranda 2018), but in the Arc of Deforestation the majority of its diet consists of arboreal mammals, even in highly deforested areas (Miranda et al. 2021a).
The main threats to the species are forest loss and degradation, and hunting, poaching and persecution. Collision with powerlines is an additional source of mortality (Banhos et al. 2018; Gusmão et al. 2020).
Although it is not consumed as food, the species is targeted by hunters, and is frequently killed across much of its large range (Trinca et al. 2008; Giraldo-Amaya et al. 2021; A. Monroy-Ojeda in litt. 2021). It is sometimes persecuted with the intention of protecting livestock, or purely to satisfy curiosity (Trinca et al. 2008; DeLuca 2012; Miranda et al. 2021b). Roughly a third of the Amazon basin is indigenous territory, and within these areas the species is frequently poached by indigenous groups for the use of its feathers in traditional headdresses, arrow fletching or souvenirs, or to be kept or traded as a 'mascot' (Alvarez-Cordero et al. 1996; Piana 2018; E. Miranda in litt. 2021). It can be found for sale at live animal markets (Piana 2018). Increasing penetration of illicit mining operation, armed groups and farmers into previously intact forests in large parts of the species's South American range (C. Sharpe in litt. 2021) may lead to increased poaching and persecution. From the 1980s to 1990s, at least 45 Harpy Eagles were shot or poached in Venezuela alone (Alvarez-Cordero 1996). Of 18 individuals released in Panama and Belize and for which the cause of death was known, eight individuals were shot (Watson et al. 2016). Studies have found that shooting resulted in the death of 2.59 individuals per 100 km2 annually in the Arc of Deforestation, which may quickly lead to local population depletion or extirpation (Miranda et al. 2021b; E. Miranda in litt. 2021).
Forest continues to be lost and degraded across much of the species's range, and particularly in southeast Amazonia and in Central America (Global Forest Watch 2021). Little forest now remains in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest. Forest is lost due to conversion to agriculture (crops and pasture), development of hydroelectric power plants and road-building (Banhos et al. 2018), and remaining forest is degraded due to selective logging, escaped fires and illegal mining. Almost all of the few species of tree used for nesting are favoured for commercial use for timber (Miranda et al. 2020). Selective logging may therefore reduce the availability of nesting trees for the species, and may result in the death of nestlings (Vargas et al. 2006; Aguiar-Silva et al. 2014; Banhos et al. 2018; Miranda et al. 2020). Loss of canopy cover may lead to a reduction in the abundance of prey species, thereby decreasing the quality of habitat for the Harpy Eagle (Miranda et al. 2021a), although a study in Peru found that the Harpy Eagle is able to survive in secondary forest by feeding on prey species that are tolerant of disturbance (Bowler et al. 2020). A model projected that the species's range may contract by 7-14% by 2090 as a result of climate change (Sutton 2021).
Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I and II. In Brazil, it is included in the National Action Plans for the birds of Amazonia (ICMBio 2014), the Cerrado and Pantanal (ICMBio 2019), and the Atlantic Forest (ICMBio 2017). It occurs in a large number of protected areas.
In Brazil, Ecuador and Panama, programmes are underway to research the species's status, ecology, genetics movements and threats.
A captive breeding programme is underway. Reintroductions have taken place in Belize and Panama, but few released individuals survived long enough to breed (Matola 2004; Muela and Curti 2005; Watson et al. 2016). Rehabilitated individuals have been released in Colombia. Education programmes have taken place in Peru, Panama, Venezuela and Brazil (Vargas et al. 2006; Rodri?guez and Rojas-Sua?rez 2008).
Conservation Actions Proposed
Research the species's population size, current distribution and trends. Study the impact of hunting and persecution on the species's population trends. Research the impact of selective logging on the species's reproductive success and population trends. Research the species's tolerance of degraded forest. Continue to monitor trends in forest loss across the species's range.
Stengthen network of protected areas to include core remaining areas of habitat. Restore forest and create habitat corridors between remaining fragments of forest in highly deforested areas. Protect remaining very large trees of species favoured for nesting sites. Enforce and strengthen laws and regulations in relation to deforestation, selective logging, hunting, persecution and trade. Work with indigenous groups to reduce the impact of harvest on the species, and to ensure that any legal harvest of the species is at sustainable levels (Miranda et al. 2019, 2021a). Continue education programmes with local communities to reduce hunting and persecution, and to reduce felling of trees with nests (Trinca et al. 2008; Piana 2018). Create economic incentives for the conservation of the species, such as by establishing ecotourism operations (Miranda et al. 2021b). Consider further reintroductions, e.g. in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest (Miranda et al. 2019).
Text account compilers
Berryman, A., Wheatley, H.
Aguiar-Silva, F.H., Baigorria, J., Benstead, P., Cabanne, G.S., Capper, D., Giraldo Amaya, M., Lees, A., Lloyd, H., Miller, B.W., Miranda, E., Monroy-Ojeda, A., Muñiz-López, R., Phillips, R., Sharpe, C.J., Sutton, L., Symes, A. & Sánchez, C.
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Harpia harpyja. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/harpy-eagle-harpia-harpyja on 01/06/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org on 01/06/2023.