A bird that symbolises great power and immense size, the Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) is a force to be reckoned with. Its might, grace and rarity have earned this eagle’s status as the national bird of the Philippines. Endemic to the forests of this country, the Philippine eagle is especially vulnerable due to deforestation. Its population (although recordings vary slightly) totals fewer than 600 individuals. Subsequently, the Philippine eagle is one of the rarest birds in the world.
Formerly known as the monkey-eating eagle (as it was believed to feed exclusively on monkeys), this large raptor actually has a much more varied diet, ranging from bats to deer and even to other birds of prey. Impressively, the Philippine eagle is one of the largest eagles in the world, beaten only by the Steller’s sea eagle and The Harpy Eagle in terms of mass. They have a wingspan of around 2 metres. This size makes the Philippine eagle an apex predator; they are able to tackle nearly every animal found across the Philippines.
Philippine eagles are solitary and territorial birds, only coming together to form mating pairs. One paired, the couple stays together for the rest of the lives. They build a nest high in the canopy and lay one egg every two years. The egg is incubated for around 2 months, with both parents taking turns incubating the egg. Although, once the egg hatches, the males will do most of the hunting whilst the females look after the chick. Their nests face no threats (other than humans) since no animal wishes to face the wrath of an angry Philippine eagle parent.
The Philippine eagle is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature). Threatened by poaching, mining, pollution and exposure to pesticides, this bird harbours an uncertain future. However, the largest threat they face is deforestation. As I mentioned earlier, these eagles are endemic to forests, so if these forests disappear, the Philippine eagles disappear too, along with a host of other unique species. National parks are being established to protect these eagles but even more must be done to ensure their survival. Not only are Philippine eagles hugely vital to their ecosystem, they are also important from a cultural perspective. Philippine eagles occur no where else in the world. This species is embedded in the history of many indigenous groups in the Philippines. As our awareness grows for this majestic bird of prey, people will be better equipped to protect them.