Great Philippine eagle, monkey-eating eagle (Pithencophaga jefferyi)
The largest eagle in the world
The Philippine eagle is the largest eagle in the world, yet most people have never heard of it and, even worse, never will. Not only because of its exotic origin, but mostly owing to the extremely small wild population. The uncertain future of the Philippine eagle should remind of how many species disappear from the surface of the Earth, not only through evolution…
The world’s largest bird of prey
The largest eagle
Today we are taking you for a journey to distant Philippines. On these islands rules a bird, which can easily be described as the world’s largest bird of prey – an exceptional heir and successor of the Haast’s eagle (Harpagornis moorei)…
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Aves
- Order: Accipitriformes
- Family: Accipitridae
- Genus: Pithecophaga
- Species: Pithecophaga jefferyi
- Names: Philippine eagle, great Philippine eagle, monkey-eating eagle
Areas of occurrence
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It prefers the highland deciduous woods, especially on steep slopes. It can also be found in the lowlands and in mountain ranges up to 1800 meters (5900 ft) above sea level. About 9220 km2 (3560mi²) of the eagle’s habitat are old forest formations, while the total estimated area of the territory it appears in is about as large as 146 000 km2 (56000 mi²).
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The largest bird of prey in captivity
The largest eagle kept in captivity measured 112 cm (3ft 8.1in), which makes this species the largest bird of prey in terms of length, right behind the extinct Haast’s eagle (Harpagornis moorei), for the similar-sized Argentavis (the largest wingspan in history) is identified as a scavenger.
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Tarsus, tail and beak
This Philippine bird has the longest tarsus (the body part linking the bird’s foot with the shin) among the whole Accipitridae family – it reaches from 12.2 to 14.5 cm (4.8 – 5.7 in), while the beak measures over 7 cm (2.76 in) on average. The tail is also long, as it grows up to 42 – 45.3 cm (16.5 – 17.8 in), while other sources state that it even reaches 50 cm (19.7 in) of length.
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Diet and hunting style
Throughout many years this animal was called a monkey-eating eagle in the Philippines, as it was believed that it eats monkeys exclusively (the only primate mammal living in the Philippines is a macaque subspecies – Macaca fascicularis philippensis), however that view was proved wrong.
As the vast majority of predators, the Philippine eagle is opportunistic – it feeds on whatever is an easiest catch and whatever is most abundant in a given moment. As an apex predator it eats many animals – from a 10-gram (0.022lb) bat to a 14-kg (31 lb) Philippine deer (Rusa marianna).
A diet depends on region
Its diet highly depends on the inhabited region, as on the Luzon and Mindanao islands the bird encounters two different types of fauna, e.g. the Philippine flying lemur (Cynocephalus volans) being an element of the Mindanao eagles’ diet do not live in Luzon – an island abundant with monkeys, birds, flying foxes (Pteropus), enormous Northern Luzon giant cloud rats (Phloeomys pallidus), which can weigh twice as much as flying lemurs and reptiles (large snakes and lizards).
The Mindanao predators’ menu consists of macaques, flying squirrels (Pteromyini), Asian palm civets (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus), tree squirrels, giant fruit bats of the Megachiroptera suborder, rats, birds (owls and hornbills), reptiles.
Several cases of snatching a wild boar and a small dog were documented.
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Females reach sexual maturity being at least 5 years old, males at 7 years of age. Like the majority of the Accipitridae family, the Philippine eagle is a monogamist. A pair once bound together remains in a relationship until the end of their lives, if a one partner dies, the other pursues a new one.
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Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi)
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- Body mass: 4.5 – 8 kg (10 – 18lb)
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- Wingspan: 184 – 220 cm (72 – 87 in)
- Wing width: 57.4 – 61.4 cm (23 – 24 in)
- Tarsus length: 12.2 to 14.5 cm (4.8 – 5.7 in)
- Beak length: over 7 cm (over 2.76 in)
- Tail length: 42 – 45.3 cm (16.5 – 17.8 in), max. 50 cm (19.7in)
Philippine eagle, monkey-eating eagle – interesting facts
- Sexual dimorphism in terms of size has not been confirmed, yet it is supposed that males are about 10% smaller than females. Among many large species of the Accipitridae family the size difference between adult males and females may exceed 20%.
- 8 – 10 days before laying eggs female falls into a specific lethargy, the so called egg lethargy. In this state the bird does not eat, drinks large amounts of water and keeps wings in a descending position.
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- Though a Philippine eagle may be considered the largest eagle, due to its habitat preferences (forest areas) it does not have the largest wingspan. More information considering this matter may be found in the article: The largest eagles Top 10.
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