When you think of the world’s largest eagles, what species spring to mind? The majestic golden eagle, widespread across the northern hemisphere? Or maybe the Steller’s sea eagle, which dominates the coastal waters of parts of Russia and Japan?
The critically endangered Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) is undoubtedly a contender in terms of weight and wingspan, but just how big is it? If you’re keen to find out how Philippine eagles measure up to other giant raptors, then keep reading.
Native only to the tropical forests of the Philippines, Philippine eagles are massive monkey-eating raptors, with wingspans of up to 2.02 m (6 ft 7 in), weighing up to 8 kg (17.6 lb). Body length is typically up to around 102 cm (3 ft 4 in), making them one of the longest raptors in the world.
As is usual for most raptor species, female Philippine eagles are usually larger than males, but even the smallest male Philippine eagles are heavier than the largest male golden eagles and bald eagles.
Not only notable for their massive body size and wingspan, Philippine eagles also possess giant, curved talons that are larger than, and arguably as sharp as, those of a tiger or lion.
Keep reading to learn more about the vital statistics of these giant raptors and how their size and powerful talons allow them to target large prey, including primates and even deer.
Philippine eagles are huge, and can have wingspans reaching up to 6ft 7 - over 2 metres!
In terms of body length, the usual accepted tip of the tail to end of the beak measurement range given for Philippine eagles is between 90 cm and 102 cm (3 ft and 3 ft 4 in). No specific breakdown is given between measurement ranges for males and females.
Museum collections of bird specimens have been found to contain Philippine eagles with even larger measurements than those seen in their modern-day wild counterparts.
Female Philippine eagles have larger wingspans than males of the species. No distinction is provided for the different measurements of males and females, but the largest females at the upper end of the range frequently have wingspans in excess of 2 m (6 ft 6 in).
Philippine eagle wingspan range: 184 to 202 cm (6 ft to 6 ft 7 in).
The wingspan of a Philippine eagle ranges from 184cm to 202cm (6 ft to 6 ft 7 in)
Philippine eagles are among the world’s heaviest raptors; females are heavier than males, with a top weight of 8 kg (17.6 lb).
Philippine eagle weight range: 4.7 kg to 8 kg (10.4 lb to 17.6 lb).
Harpy eagles claim the crown for the eagle species with the largest talons, but those of Philippine eagles are only marginally shorter. A full grown adult Philippine eagle has powerful talons measuring up to 10 cm (4 in). These curved claws enable them to grip and carry prey up to four times their own size.
Close up of Philippine eagle talons
At over 1 m in length from tail to head, the Philippine eagle is larger than a human toddler, and over half the size of a full-grown adult.
A specimen of an individual Philippine eagle held in the collection of the Field Museum of Natural History in 1959 was measured to have a body length of 112 cm (3 ft 8 in).
Little is known of the origin of this particular bird, and one theory is that it had been kept in captivity and may not reflect the natural size range of the species.
Close up portrait of a Philippine eagle
The powerful curved talons of a Philippine eagle allow it to pick up and carry off prey up to four times bigger than itself. Animals such as large monkeys, lemurs, civets and even small deer form a large share of their typical diet.
The dominating size of a Philippine eagle and the devastating power it can exert with its giant talons allow this species to tackle large prey, including primates and civets, and carry them off effectively.
As a critically endangered species, Philippine eagles use their mammoth size to their advantage when it comes to survival, as they are considered an apex predator in their range.
Close up of a perched Philippine eagle
In terms of weight, the heaviest Harpy eagles and Steller’s sea eagles both outweigh the maximum mass of a Philippine eagle by around 1 kg (2.2 lb). These three are commonly thought of as the three heaviest eagle species in the world.
In terms of length, the Philippine eagle is frequently billed as the largest eagle due to an individual museum specimen recorded as measuring 112 cm (3 ft 8 in).
However, this exceeds the usual maximum height range for the species, and various different data exists for other giant raptors, with some measurements suggesting that the longest Harpy eagles and Steller’s sea eagles might be a few centimeters longer.
Several other raptors have a larger wingspan than Philippine eagles, with white-tailed sea eagles, Steller’s sea eagles, wedge-tailed eagles, and golden eagles all outranking the Philippine eagle in measurement from wingtip to wingtip.
Philippine eagle nesting in Mindanao, Philippines
Using the average measurement range for both species, Harpy eagles are both heavier and longer than Philippine eagles. The upper end of the length range for Philippine eagles is 102 cm (3 ft 4 in), compared to a giant 107 cm (3 ft 6 in) for Harpy eagles.
The heaviest Harpy eagles weigh around 1 kg (2.2 lb) more than the largest Philippine eagles, and the widest recorded wingspan of a Harpy eagle – 224 cm (7 ft 4 in) – is around 22 cm (9 in) larger.
The tallest specimen of a Philippine eagle, recovered from a museum collection, measured 112 cm (3 ft 8 in), equating to a standing height of around 1 m (3 ft 3 in), or to put it in another perspective, around waist height on a 6 ft human.
American eagles, officially known as bald eagles, are inferior to Philippine eagles in weight and body length. There may be slight overlap between the largest female bald eagles and the smallest male Philippine eagles, but in general, Philippine eagles are larger and heavier birds.
One area in which there is no contest between the pair is wingspan. A bald eagle’s majestic wing size, reaching up to 244 cm (8 ft) is over a foot greater than the same measurement in Philippine eagles.
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