Nature’s Greatest Killing Machines: The Harpy Eagle

The vibrant rainforests of Central and South America have no shortage of impressive predators.

Jaguars slink through the understory, caimans and anacondas patrol murky waterways, and venomous lancehead vipers wait coiled below the leaf litter. But one of the region’s most proficient and deadly hunters rains fear down from the balmy canopy: the harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja).

Among eagles, the harpy eagle is unmistakable. Matte black on its back, with white to dingy gray feathers underneath and a fluffy crest of feathers on its head that it raises when threatened, there are few eagles it can be confused with. This is especially true when you consider its size. Weighing over 20 pounds with a wingspan of more than 7 feet, harpy eagles are caught in what is basically a three-way tie for the title of “world’s largest eagle” with the Steller’s sea eagle and the Philippine eagle.
Ranging from southern Mexico, through Central America to the Amazon, the harpy eagle is outfitted with a battery of adaptations that make it one of nature’s most impressive hunters.