Nov 03 2011
Coming next Wednesday on PBS Nature is a raptor story nest-watchers can relate to.
Jungle Eagle follows filmmaker Fergus Beeley as he monitors a harpy eagle nest in Venezuela’s Orinoco River valley. Over a period of nine months he shows us the life of an eaglet and his family, from newly hatched chick to young adulthood. The story is dramatic. The lifestyle of these eagles makes it dangerous.
Harpy eagles live in the South American rainforest and are the largest eagle in the western hemisphere. They dwell at the top of the canopy and eat monkeys and sloths from the trees. They kill by surprise.
The adults are top predators but the young are vulnerable. When the chick is small his mother must guard him. Even the monkeys that become his food could eat him.
Fergus Beeley shows this by filming from a tree stand and using a nestcam. Peregrine nest watchers will see parallels between the harpy eagles and our favorite raptor:
- The mother bird guards the chick and won’t leave him while he’s small.
- She calls her mate to bring food. “Come NOW!”
- When he delivers a meal, she snatches it and barely says thank you.
- Though a powerful raptor, she is very tender with her chick.
- The baby grows into a fully feathered teenager who begs from his parents.
Inevitably there are nestcam problems, but they’re more dangerous to fix than anything we ever encounter. Peregrines fiercely defend their nests and harpy eagles do, too. But harpy eagles are huge and they’re skilled at killing primates. And what are humans? Large primates!
In the end the eaglet reaches adulthood and starts to hunt on his own. As adults, harpy eagles are powerful, self sufficient birds. The real danger they face is extinction because people cut down the rainforest these birds require for life.
(photo of a harpy eagle from PBS Nature)