Monkey-eating Eagle Facing Extinction
Only 500 Remain of this Popular Bird Species
By Richie Mogwai
August 5th, 2009
The Monkey-eating Eagle, an eagle species endemic to or found only in the Philippines in Southeast Asia, is revered around the world primarily due to its size. It's the tallest eagle in the world. The female Monkey-eating Eagle is about 3.5 feet tall, weighs more than 15 pounds, and has a wingspan of 6 feet.
 Famous American Charles Lindbergh, the first man to pilot the non-stop transatlantic flight, was so enamored with the Monkey-eating Eagle that he was the first to clamor for its conservation in the 1960s.
Only 500 Monkey-eating Eagles Left in the World
Rarity is also one of the main reasons for the Monkey-eating Eagle's huge popularity the world over. There are only 500 of these eagles left according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. This makes bird watching reason enough to visit the Philippine Islands, as this eagle is only found there.
While most Monkey-eating Eagles are found in the Philippines' southernmost region, some make their habitat in the eastern parts of the islands. Because of the birds' enormity, they need to have a big area in which to hunt for prey. However, because of the dwindling rate of rainforests, their numbers have been in sharp decline. Philippine authorities made great efforts toward protecting their national treasure. Still, poaching happens.
An Eagle Renamed: Monkey-eating Eagle to Philippine Eagle
In 1978, then Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos renamed the Monkey-eating Eagle the Philippine Eagle. It was a significant correction of a naming anomaly. After all, the Philippine Eagle  does not eat only monkeys, but nearly all small creatures found in the wild, including the Flying Lemur, owls, snakes, and even, occasionally, small pigs, dogs and cats.
Monkey-eating Eagle Hunting Strategies
 Monkey-eating Eagles hunt in pairs using a clever strategy; one tries to generate a commotion among a bunch of animals, while the other swoops in for the kill. Now, because the underbelly and under wings of these birds is white, most prey never see them coming -- it being hard to distinguish the eagles from the clouds in the sky.
This also explains why these eagles are a gem for birdwatchers as they are very hard to spot.
The Monkey-eating Eagles also have a  rare ability to change the course of their flight very quickly despite their wingspan of 6 feet. No other eagle near this size has the dexterity to do this!
The Philippine Eagle and the Mythical Griffin
How do you distinguish the Monkey-eating Eagle from other eagles? Aside from its enormity, the Philippine Eagle  has a brown crown that spreads out into a crest around its nape. These crowning feathers tend to spread out when the animal is excited, making it look punky, indeed.
This characteristic feature has been likened to a lion's mane, and, mythically, to a griffin, the lion-eagle symbol of Western lore. It is hard to find a Monkey-eating Eagle in the wild -- at times it can feel like one is searching for a unicorn, or a mermaid.