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Siojo; 2008

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Facts About the Philippine Eagle - The Monkey-Eating-Eagle
Ron Siojo Ranked #8 in Wildlife & Nature
The Philippine Eagle, Pithecophaga jefferyi, also known as the great Philippine eagle or monkey-eating eagle, is among the tallest, rarest, largest, and most powerful birds in the world. [1] A bird of prey belonging to the family Accipitridae, it is also known as "Haribon" or "Haring Ibon," which means "Bird King". Its local name is banog.


The Philippine Eagle, Pithecophaga jefferyi, also known as the great Philippine eagle or monkey-eating eagle, is among the tallest, rarest, largest, and most powerful birds in the world. [2] A bird of prey belonging to the family Accipitridae, it is also known as "Haribon" or "Haring Ibon," which means "Bird King". Its local name is banog.


[3] The species was discovered in 1896 by the English explorer and naturalist John Whitehead, who observed the bird and whose servant, Juan, collected the first specimen a few weeks later. The skin of the bird was sent to William Robert Ogilvie-Grant in London in 1896, which initially showed it off in a local restaurant and described the species a few weeks later.

Upon its discovery, the Philippine Eagle was first called the monkey-eating eagle because of reports from natives of Bonga, Samar, where the species was first discovered that it preyed exclusively on monkeys; from these reports it gained its generic name, from the Greek pithecus ("ape or monkey") and phagus ("eater of"). The specific name commemorates Jeffery Whitehead, the father of John Whitehead. Later studies revealed, however, that the alleged monkey-eating eagle also ate other animals such as colugo, civets, large snakes, monitor lizards, and even large birds like horn bills. This, coupled with the fact that the same name applied to the African Crowned Hawk-eagle and the South American Harpy Eagle, resulted in a presidential proclamation to change its name to Philippine Eagle in 1978, and in 1995 was declared a national emblem. This species has no recognized subspecies.

Way back in 1978-1979, I communed and lived with the dumagat, native of the Sierra Madre Mountain; we spotted the eagle flying around the jungle of Sierra Madre several times. Some side of the jungle dwell ample of the local monkeys.

[4] A recent study of the Philippine Eagle's DNA suggests that the bird has a unique evolutionary history. Its genetic sequence differs from those of other large eagles. Researchers from the University of Michigan analyzed the DNA isolated from blood samples of the Philippine Eagle. The sequence was then compared to those of the Harpy Eagle, Crested Eagle, and the New Guinea Harpy Eagle. All three are related genetically but they are not closely related to the Philippine Eagle. These species were once believed to be closely related due to their similar sizes, habitat, and habits; however, these similarities are now believed to be the result of convergent evolution. It is actually believed that the closest relative to the Philippine Eagle may be the much smaller snake eagles.


The Philippine Eagle's nape is adorned with long brown feathers that form a shaggy crest. These feathers give it the appearance of possessing a lion's mane, which in turn resembles the mythical griffin. The eagle has a dark face and a creamy-brown nape and crown. [5] The back of the Philippine Eagle is dark brown, while the underside and under wings are white. The heavy legs are yellow with large, powerful dark claws, and the prominent large, high-arched, deep beak is a bluish-gray. The eagle's eyes are blue-gray. [6Juveniles are similar to adults except that their upper part feathers have pale fringes.

The female is up to 112 centimeters (3.82 ft) long with an average of 102 centimeters (3.36 ft) long and weighs about 7 kilograms (15.5 lb). The adult male is about 10 to 20% smaller and averages at about 91 centimeters (3 ft) and 5 kilograms (11 lb). [7The Philippine Eagle is the world's largest living eagle in terms of length. The species has a wingspan of approximately 2 meters (6.6 ft). The wings of this eagle are shorter than large eagles of open country (such as the Martial Eagle, Wedge-tailed Eagle and Steller's Sea Eagle), but are quite broad and have a greater surface area than any other eagle.

[8] The most frequently heard noises made by the Philippine Eagle are loud, high-pitched whistles. Additionally, juveniles have been known to beg for food by a series of high-pitched calls.

 Habitat and Behavior

The Philippine Eagle is endemic to the Philippines and can be found on four major islands: eastern Luzon, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao. [9] The largest number of eagles resides on Mindanao, with between 82 and 233 breeding pairs. Only six pairs are found on Samar, two on Leyte, and a few on Luzon. It can be found in Northern Sierra Madre National Park on Luzon and Mount Apo and Mount Kitanglad National Parks on Mindanao. Some Palawan natives have claimed that the Philippine Eagle does exist in the island province. Some are under care of the Palawan Crocodile Farm.

[13] This eagle is found in dipterocarp and mid-montane forests, particularly in steep areas. Its elevation ranges from the lowlands to mountains of over 1,800 meters (5,905 ft). It is estimated that only 9,220 square kilometers (2,280,000 acres) of old growth forests remain in the bird's range. However, its total estimated range is about 146,000 square kilometers (56,000 sq mi)

[10] Evolution in the Philippine islands, without other predators, made the eagles the dominant hunter in the Philippine forests. Each breeding pair requires a large home range (of 25 to 50 square miles) to successfully raise a chick, and thus the species is extremely vulnerable to the regularly occurring deforestation.

The species' flight is fast and agile, resembling the smaller hawks more than similar large birds of prey.

[11] Juveniles in play behavior have been observed gripping knotholes in trees with their talons and, using its tail and wings for balance, inserting its head into a tree cavity. Additionally, they have been known to attack inanimate objects for practice as well as attempt to hang upside down to work on their balance. As the parents are not nearby when this occurs, it has been suggested that they do not play a role in teaching the juvenile to hunt.

[14] Life expectancy for a wild eagle is estimated to be anywhere from 30 to 60 years. A captive Philippine Eagle lived for more than 41 years in a zoo in Rome. However, it is believed that wild birds on average live shorter than captive birds.

The Philippine Eagle was known initially as the Philippine Monkey-Eating Eagle because it was believed to feed on monkeys exclusively; this has proven to be inaccurate. [12The primary prey varies from island to island depending on species availability, particularly in Luzon and Mindanao. This is due to the islands being in different fauna regions. For example, Philippine flying lemurs, the preferred prey in Mindanao, are absent in Luzon. The primary prey for the eagles in Luzon is currently unknown. The eagles prefer flying lemurs and Asian Palm Civets, but they occasionally eat small mammals, birds (owls and horn bills), reptiles (snakes and monitor lizards), and even other birds of prey. There have been reports of eagles capturing young pigs and small dogs. It is estimated that the flying lemur could make up 90% of the raptor's diet in some locations.

[15] Eagle pairs sometimes hunt troops of monkey cooperatively, with one bird perching nearby to distract the primates allowing the other to swoop in unnoticed for the kill.

“Pag-asa’s” popular eaglet is named “Pagkakaisa” meaning unity.
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