All birds

Learn about a specific type of bird

By family

Learn all about different bird families



Your complete guide on everything Woodpeckers

Harpy Eagle

Harpia harpyja

One of the world’s largest and most powerful birds, the Harpy Eagle has a fearsome reputation. These impressive raptors prey on monkeys and other large prey by snatching them from the forest canopy with oversized feet and talons.

Harpy Eagle

Harpy Eagle

Harpy Eagle

Juvenile Harpy Eagle

Harpy Eagle

Harpy Eagle adult feeding its young at the nest

Harpy Eagle

Harpy Eagle in-flight

Harpy Eagle

Harpy Eagle sitting on a tree stump

Quick Facts


Scientific name:

Harpia harpyja

Other names:

American Harpy Eagle


Kites, hawks and eagles



87cm to 107cm


183cm to 224cm


4kg to 9kg

Appearance & Identiifcation

What do Harpy Eagles look like?

The Harpy Eagle is a massive bird with a long crest that can be raised at will. These birds have heavy, hooked black bills and gray-brown eyes. Their monstrous feet and legs stand out with a bright yellow color, contrasting with their black talons. Harpy Eagles have immense curved talons that can reach lengths of over four inches, that’s as big as a Grizzly Bear’s claws!

Adult Harpy Eagles are dark slate gray above on the back and upper wings. This dark plumage also forms a broad band around the breast, separating the whitish underparts from the pale gray head. Their tail is broadly banded in pale and dark gray, and their feathered upper legs are finely barred.

Female Harpy Eagles have the same plumage as males, although they are much bigger at about twice the weight.

Juvenile birds only attain their adult plumage in their third or fourth year. Until then, they are easily identified by their predominantly white plumage with darker flight feathers and banded tails.

Harpy Eagle resting in the trees

Harpy Eagle resting in the trees

How big are Harpy Eagles?

Harpy Eagles are true giants of the bird world. They are not quite the heaviest or longest of eagles, but they’re not far off either.


Adult Harpy Eagles have a total body length of 34 to 42 inches or 87 to 107 centimeters.


Most wild Harpy Eagles weigh 9 to 20 pounds, with males just half the weight of females. Captive specimens can grow to a staggering 27 pounds!


At 72 to 88 inches (183 - 224 cm), the Harpy Eagle’s wingspan is much broader than the average human height.

Check out this guide for more fascinating facts about Harpy Eagle size.

Harpy Eagle standing on the ground near to a river

Harpy Eagle standing on the ground near to a river

Calls & Sounds

What sound does a Harpy Eagle make?

The Harpy Eagle’s call is a series of plaintive high-pitched cries, each lasting roughly one second and made at similar intervals. They are most vocal in the nesting season.

Close-up of a Harpy Eagle calling out

Close-up of a Harpy Eagle calling out


What do Harpy Eagles eat?

Harpy Eagles are perfectly built to hunt large animals in the rainforest canopy. Mammals are their most important prey, but they also eat large reptiles and other birds. The following animals are commonly taken:

  • Sloths
  • Various monkeys (squirrel, capuchin, howler, etc.)
  • Wild pigs
  • Deer
  • Anteaters
  • Porcupines
  • Large birds like macaws
  • Reptiles like snakes and iguanas

There’s much more to learn about the Harpy Eagle diet. Check out this in-depth guide to learn where, what, and how these magnificent birds hunt.

What do Harpy Eagle chicks eat?

The Harpy Eagle chick eats the meat of monkeys, sloths, and other prey that its parents catch. Both parents hunt to feed the young bird, and they help young chicks by tearing off manageable strips of meat.

Harpy Eagle feeding on its prey

Harpy Eagle feeding on its prey

Habitat & Distribution

What is the habitat of a Harpy Eagle?

Harpy Eagles live in tropical rainforest habitats, mostly at low elevations. They usually hunt in the upper canopy but may also look for prey in open habitats that border the forest.

What is the range of a Harpy Eagle?

Harpy Eagles are largely restricted to South and Central America. The immense country of Brazil is their major stronghold, but they also range south to Paraguay and Argentina. In North America, they reach their northern limit in the southeast of Mexico.

Where do Harpy Eagles live?

Harpy Eagles spend most of their lives in the upper canopy of rainforest trees. They may nest within just a few miles of each other in prime habitats, although they occupy large home ranges of thousands of hectares. These patient hunters spend little time in flight and rarely soar like other large birds of prey.

There’s much more to learn about the range and habitat of the Harpy Eagle. Read our in-depth article for a closer look.

How rare are Harpy Eagles?

Harpy Eagles are rare and elusive birds. Despite their large range, these threatened eagles are thinly distributed and difficult to find in the wild.

Where can you see Harpy Eagles in the US?

Harpy Eagles are not native to the United States, although bird watchers can enjoy sightings of captive birds at several zoos across the south of the country. The following zoos have these magnificent birds on exhibit:

  • San Diego Zoo, California
  • Los Angeles Zoo, California
  • Dallas Zoo, Texas
  • Zoo Miami, Florida
Harpy Eagle perching on a branch in a forest

Harpy Eagle perching on a branch in a forest

Lifespan & Predation

How long do Harpy Eagles live?

Harpy Eagles are long-lived birds that first breed after about five years. They can survive for up to 35 years in the wild.

What are the predators of Harpy Eagles?

Harpy Eagles are apex predators with no natural enemies to fear. Shooting by farmers and habitat destruction caused by logging are their most serious threats.

Are Harpy Eagles protected?

Harpy Eagles are protected locally in Brazil and internationally by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) Appendix I.

Are Harpy Eagles endangered?

Harpy Eagles are ranked as a ‘Vulnerable’ species on the IUCN Red List, which is just one category short of being globally endangered with extinction. More locally, they are considered critically endangered in countries in the north of their range.

Harpy Eagle perching on a branch in the rainforest

Harpy Eagle perching on a branch in the rainforest

Nesting & Breeding

Where do Harpy Eagles nest?

Harpy Eagles build large stick nests that can measure four feet (1.2m) deep and five feet (1.5m) wide. Both sexes build the nest from twigs and add softer green material before the female lays her eggs. They nest high in the crown of rainforest trees, sometimes over 130 feet (40 m) above the ground.

When do Harpy Eagles nest?

Harpy Eagles begin nesting in April or May. They incubate their eggs for eight weeks but only raise a single chick. The young bird will stay in the nest for up to six months and remain dependent on its parents for food for up to a year longer. Spending so much time on a single chick means pairs can only breed every two to three years.

What do Harpy Eagle eggs look like?

Harpy Eagles usually lay two plain white eggs. Single-egg clutches are fairly common, but three eggs are rare. Their eggs are very large, measuring about three inches long and two inches wide (75mm x 57mm) on average.

Do Harpy Eagles mate for life?

Harpy Eagles are monogamous. Pairs mate for life, which is impressive considering their long potential lifespan.

Harpy eagle at nest with chick

Harpy Eagle adult at the nest with its young

Harpy eagle feeding chick at nest

Harpy Eagle adult feeding its chick at the nest


Are Harpy Eagles aggressive?

Harpy Eagles are not particularly aggressive. Despite their fearsome appearance, these birds are only aggressive toward their prey and other animals that may threaten their young.

Where do Harpy Eagles sleep at night?

Harpy Eagles roost among the branches of large trees in their rainforest habitat.

Harpy Eagle perching on a wooden fence pole

Harpy Eagle perching on a wooden fence pole


Do Harpy Eagles migrate?

Harpy Eagles do not migrate. After gaining independence and finding a mate, paired birds will remain in the same area throughout their lives.

Harpy Eagle in natural habitat

Harpy Eagle in natural habitat


Is a Harpy Eagle stronger than the Bald Eagle?

Harpy Eagles are much larger than Bald Eagles and far more powerful. Bald Eagles mainly feed on fish and waterbirds, while Harpies tackle much larger animals, including adult monkeys and even young deer!

Is the Harpy Eagle the biggest eagle in the world?

Harpy Eagles are among the three largest surviving eagle species. Only the massive Steller’s Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus) and the critically endangered Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) rival their size.

Are Harpy Eagles aggressive to humans?

Harpy Eagles are not naturally aggressive toward humans, and it’s a good thing because an attack could easily turn deadly. They show little fear for humans, however, leaving them vulnerable to shooting. The only situation where these majestic birds may pose a real threat to an adult human is where their eggs or chicks are threatened.

Enjoyed this content? Share it now

Learn more about the Harpy Eagle

Other birds in the Kites, hawks and eagles family

Get the best of Birdfact

Brighten up your inbox with our exclusive newsletter, enjoyed by thousands of people from around the world.

Your information will be used in accordance with Birdfact's privacy policy. You may opt out at any time.

© 2023 - Birdfact. All rights reserved. No part of this site may be reproduced without our written permission.