The Philippine eagle or monkey-eating eagle is considered one of the rarest and most powerful birds in the world. The Southeast Asian country declared it as its national bird and protects this critically-endangered species at all costs, punishing those who are found guilty of killing it with 12 years of imprisonment or with high fines. Below, we round up 11 interesting facts about this majestic bird.
The Philippine eagle’s life expectancy ranges from 30 to 60 years. Two Philippine eagles were recorded to have lived for more more than 40 years – one of which died on October 2016. The full-grown, female Philippine eagle named ‘Thor’ (after the Norse God of Thunder), died due to old age. Authorities believe her captivity worsened her condition. Hence, it is believed the Philippine eagle can live longer if left in the wild.
The giant forest raptor is not only considered as rare and powerful but also recognised for its length. It can grow up to 3 feet and its wingspan can extend up to 7 feet. Average measurements among male and female Philippine eagles suggest the female Philippine eagle can be 10% bigger than its male counterpart. In terms of length, it’s considered as the largest surviving eagle in the world.
Earlier beliefs suggested that the Philippine eagle was also known as the monkey-eating eagle because it preyed on monkeys. However, contrary to popular belief, the Philippine eagle does not eat monkeys. According to recent studies, it preys on a variety of animals, usually rodents, bats, snakes, and pigs.
The noises heard from a Philippine eagle are described as loud and high-pitched, suggesting its fierce and territorial characteristics.
A Philippine eagle’s distinct features are: long crown feathers, massive arched beak, and two Bluish eyes that are said to be really sharp. These birds have much clearer eyesights compared to humans, and have the capacity to see eight times the distance that the human eye can see.
It’s only found in the Philippines, and can be spotted on four major islands. These are the islands of Leyte, Luzon, Mindanao, and Samar. However, due to shooting and trapping, the Philippine eagle has been critically endangered for years. Despite the prevalence of strict laws, there are still cases of Philippine eagles being shot in forests. Thus, the Philippine Eagle Center was put up as a conservation breeding facility for this highly-threatened raptor.
The forest, particularly lush dense forests, is the Philippine eagle’s home. Despite the country’s abundance of greenery, massive logging and irresponsible use of resources is killing the forests, thereby killing the species’ home. Aside from shooting and trapping, deforestration is also seen as a major cause of Philippine eagle deaths.
The Philippine eagle is reportedly very loyal. Once paired to a partner, they choose to remain as a couple for the rest of their lives. As for their offsprings, a Philippine eagle only lays a single egg every two years. And before they lay another egg, the parent eagles ensure that their offspring can already survive on its own.
It wasn’t a Filipino or local who discovered this powerful bird species. British naturalist and explorer John Whitehead discovered the Philippine eagle in 1896, when he found the specimen in Paranas, Samar. In honour of his father, who financed his expeditions and explorations, the Philippine eagle was scientifically named as ‘Pithecophaga jefferyi’ – where ‘jefferyi’ means Jeffrey (the father of John Whitehead).
The Philippine eagle was named as the country’s national bird in 1995. Proclamation No. 615, signed by former President Fidel Ramos, gave way to the recognition of the species as the country’s national bird. It was recognised as such for it is only found in the Philippines and according to the proclamation, its distinguished characteristics of strength and love for freedom exemplify the Filipino people. Unlike other raptors, the Philippine eagle has no known close relatives or sub-species, making it very unique.
Since it lives in forests, many believe that sightings of a Philippine eagle indicate the healthy condition of the forest. Additionally, its presence suggest that there’s balance in the ecosystem and with a healthy natural environment, flooding and climate change effects are minimised.