Philippines’ National Symbols

Monkey-Eating Eagle

The Monkey-Eating Eagle is now known as the National Bird of the Philippines and this has helped increase awareness of the bird and its plight.

Its numbers have slowly dwindled over the decades with only an estimated 500 pairs left. The Philippine Eagle may soon no longer be found in the wild, unless direct intervention is taken. The Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) is one such organization dedicated to the protection and conservation of the Philippine Eagle and its forest habitat. In fact, PEF has been successfully breeding Philippine Eagles in captivity for over a decade now and has also conducted the first experimental release of a captive-bred eagle to the wild. Ongoing research on behavior, ecology and population dynamics is also underway.

The scientific name commemorates Jeffery Whitehead, father of the English explorer and naturalist John Whitehead, who collected the original specimen.

The Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) is one of the rarest, largest and most powerful birds in the world. This bird of prey, or raptor, belongs to the family Accipitridae.

Upon discovery in 1896, it was first called the Monkey-eating Eagle, based on reports from natives that it preyed exclusively on monkeys (hence its generic name, from the Greek pithecus (“ape or monkey”) and phagus (“eater (of)”) . Later studies revealed, however, that they also prey on other animals such as colugo, civets, large snakes, monitor lizards, and even large birds like hornbills. This, and 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. It is also known as Haribon or Haring Ibon, meaning Bird King

The Philippine Eagle can be found in rainforests of four major Philippine islands – Luzon, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao.

This eagle’s head is adorned with long brown feathers that give it the appearance of a lion’s mane. The upperside of the Philippine Eagle is brown, the underside white. This average female is about 1 meter (3.3 feet) long, weighs about 7 kg (15.5 lb), and has a wingspan of 2 meters (6.7 feet). This makes the Philippine Eagle one of the world’s largest eagles with the largest wing surface area. The Harpy Eagle and Steller’s Sea Eagle are about the same size as this species. The life expectancy for the Philippine Eagle is around 30-60 years

Like most eagles the Philippine Eagle is monogamous. A couple remains together for a lifetime. The nest is normally built on an emergent dipterocarp, about 30 m above the ground. The female lays one egg. The parents will care for the egg and the young for twenty months, so they may breed only every other year.

Charles Lindbergh, best known for crossing the Atlantic in 1927, was fascinated by this eagle. As a representative of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) he travelled to the Philippines several times between 1969 and 1972, where he helped persuade the government to protect the eagle.

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