Archived 2021 topic: Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja): Revise global status?

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14 Responses to Archived 2021 topic: Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja): Revise global status?

  1. Chris Sharpe says:

    I suspect VU on the basis of A3cd + A4cd is certainly plausible, given habitat loss and increasing penetration of illicit mining operations, irregular armed groups, and / or farmers, etc, into previously intact, often large wilderness protected areas in some parts of South America (Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Brazil, Perú and Bolivia). But are there hard data to support declines in AOO/EOO? For the record, we list as nationally VU in Venezuela (, and I know that is the case in Brazil, but NT in Colombia. Also note that the species historically extended around the S and W margins of Lake Maracaibo and up into Sierra de Perijá and persists in parts of the region (Viloria et al. in press BBOC 141(2)).

  2. julian baigorria says:

    As I already stated in the emails, I fully agree with the classification of the species under the category of Vulnerable. I also propose that the population of the Atlantic Forest be analyzed separately because their situation is completely different from the rest of the continent.

  3. I fully support the revision of the Harpy Eagle category and support its reclassification under the category of vulnerable.
    According to Sutton et al. (2021) Harpy Eagle presence map (binary threshold polygon estimate of geographic range size), it has a current size of 9,844,399 km2, which is 11% smaller than the current IUCN polygon (11,064,295 km2), and their estimation of the EOO (13,050,940 km2) is 25.9% less than the current IUCN EOO (17,600,000 km2). This considerable reduction of the current potential distribution of the species support its reclassification under the category of vulnerable.
    Furthermore, I propose that the northernmost population (from Costa Rica to Mexico) be analyzed separately. This population should be considered endangered, due to the strong habitat pressures (habitat loss and fragmentation) that this region has suffered during the last two decades (Carabias et al. 2015). Recent studies in Mexico (Monroy-Ojeda et al. 2016, Monroy-Ojeda and Gibert 2017) have demonstrated the presence of the species in Mexico (unofficially considered extirpated form the country), but with such a scarcity that it is likely that there will not be a viable population in the long term. The hunting of individuals of the species is a quite serious extirpation factor, probably more decisive in the extirpation of the species than the loss of habitat, as evidenced by recent studies (Giraldo-Amaya et al. 2021, Monroy-Ojeda et al. in press). Due to the small remaining harpy eagle population in the northernmost part of its range (Costa Rica to Mexico) and the constant decline in his habitat, a separate analysis and categorization is justified.

    Carabias J., de la Maza J., Cadena, R. 2015. Conservación y desarrollo sustentable en la Selva Lacandona. 25 años de actividades y experiencias, Natura y Ecosistemas Mexicanos, Ciudad de México.

    Giraldo Amaya, M, Aguiar-Silva, F.H., Aparicio, K.M., Zuluaga, S. (2021) Human persecution of the harpy eagle: A widespread threat? Journal of Raptor Research, 55(1). doi:10.3356/jrr-20-76

    Monroy-Ojeda, A., y S. Gibert. 2017. Conservación de Rapaces Neotropicales en Yaxchilán y Chan-Kin. Programa de Conservación de Especies en Riesgo, Convenio de Proyecto (PROCER/CCER/RFSIPS/40/2016). Informe Final. Dimensión Natural S.C. / Natura Mexicana A.C. 115 Pp.

    Monroy-Ojeda, A., S. Gibert, S. López y R. León. 2016. Neotropical Raptor Monitoring Program in the Selva Lacandona, Mexico. Spizaetus 22: 23-28

    • I totally agree with the proposal of Alan. Specifically in Costa Rica there are only 4 vouchered observations in the last 3 decades, hence I’m confident to say the species is largely extirpated in out country. Most lowland rainforest in Costa Rica was cut between the decades of 1940 to 1980. Other areas were further cleared in the Caribbean lowlands for banana plantations, and are now heavily transformed into massive pineapple plantations, increasing the fragmentation of the forest remnants. Given its scarcity, this species should be re-evaluated, since probably the few individuals left north of Costa Rica are very isolated, and most possibly the biggest population left is the Caribbean lowland rainforests of Nicaragua and SE Honduras.

      César Sánchez

      Macaw Recovery Network

  4. Luke Sutton says:

    I support the reclassification to Vulnerable but suggest a revised EOO of 13,050,940 square km be considered based on point occurrences (Sutton et al. 2021), rather than the estimate using a polygon from the mapped range as given above.

    The mapped range is certainly an improvement from the previous IUCN range estimate but I still think there are areas within the mapped range above where to the best of our knowledge harpy eagles are not present (for example parts of the Atlantic Forest). I have another manuscript currently in review where we determine range-wide habitat use for the species, which includes a further refinement and reduction in range size compared to our previous range map. I can share this updated range map but under the caveat that the manuscript it is still under review and not yet accepted.

  5. Mateo Giraldo Amaya says:

    I agree with the reclassification to vulnerable. This species is currently persecuted throughout its distribution and their populations has been extirpated or severely affected from some locations in Central America (Giraldo-Amaya et al. 2021; Monroy-Ojeda and Gibert 2017).
    Since the publication of Giraldo-Amaya et al. In 2021, in Colombia, in a non-exhaustive search, more than six new conflict events with the Harpy Eagle had been reported (1 or two per month) and several with a fatal outcome (unpublished information).

    Giraldo Amaya, M, Aguiar-Silva, F.H., Aparicio, K.M., Zuluaga, S. (2021) Human persecution of the harpy eagle: A widespread threat? Journal of Raptor Research, 55(1). doi:10.3356/jrr-20-76

    Monroy-Ojeda, A., y S. Gibert. 2017. Conservación de Rapaces Neotropicales en Yaxchilán y Chan-Kin. Programa de Conservación de Especies en Riesgo, Convenio de Proyecto (PROCER/CCER/RFSIPS/40/2016). Informe Final. Dimensión Natural S.C. / Natura Mexicana A.C. 115 Pp.

  6. Rationale for proposed change
    Considering that the shooting rates kill 2.28 ind/100km²/year in the Arc of Deforestation (Miranda et al., 2021). These rates of shooting remove the species even from areas WITH forest cover. The paper describing these rates and more about the persecution will be published in a couple weeks by Animal Conservation. Since the manuscript is currently accepted, I can offer a copy on reasonable request ( I therefore agree with Mateo Giraldo Amaya regarding persecution as a big issue for the species, one that is extirpating the species much before forest loss occurs. Notice that even at high density sites, harpy eagles occurs at densities of 12 adults/100km². No demography is needed to understand that the removal rates I mention can silently remove these populations quickly.
    Considering that the species requires a minimum of 50% of forest cover to keep breeding in a habitat patch, and that eaglets will starve to death on sites with greater loss of forest cover (Miranda et al., 2021), much of the Amazon—specially the Arc of Deforestation—must be put out of the species distribution. This paper will be published on 30th June 2021 (today) by Scientific Reports, and can be download at
    I propose that the range already lost in the Arc of Deforestation and the current individuals removal rate in this landscape justifies the species to be classified as Endangered. I emphasized that these threats are the most problematic ones because of where they are: (a) the Arc of Deforestation is incinerating the Amazon forest from the outside in through cattle ranching; (b) The pan-Amazonian region nowadays represents >90% of harpy eagle distribution.
    The species’ potential current distribution is shown in a map that takes into consideration these factors, and this map was provided through the Red List email, or in this link: I will say a bit more about these issues below, as well as to confront the proposed map.
    Number of Mature Individuals
    Please add that densities in the Arc of Deforestation are of 1.97–4.84 nests/100 km² of intact forest habitat, but only 0.79–3.07 nests/100 km² in fragmented landscapes (Miranda et al., 2021).
    It is important to note that roughly a third of the Amazon Forest—the harpy eagle’s last stronghold—is under the direct control of indigenous peoples that hunt harpy eagles year-round for fletching arrows and to make headdresses without bag limits. Therefore, I believe that the estimated population in these regions should be reduced when compared with our general estimate. I also emphasize that there is no cause-and-consequence relationship between the harpy eagle use being traditional and being sustainable. Besides feathers, indigenous people frequently have harpy eagles as caged mascots and sell individuals to wildlife traffickers.

  7. Generation length
    Fertility increases with age in harpy eagles to reach a maximum at about 15 years old, followed by decreased fertility documented for male birds of approximately 30 years old (Watson et al., 2016). I recommend discussing the generation length with the authors of this paper. They have data that will allow to infer properly the age of reproductive senescence (whereas they do not discuss or test that in their work). Another source that will certainly help to refine this data is the dissertation of Marcos Oliveira (Oliveira, 2019), unfortunately available in Portuguese only (please contact me if you need help in this sense).
    Severe fragmentation and extreme fluctuations
    The answer should be YES. The species is currently found in a patchy distribution over the Atlantic Forest and over the Arc of Deforestation in Brazil. As pointed in Aguiar-Silva (2016), the species—with short wings and heavy body—hardly cross gaps between forests larger than 500 m. Even considering that the Arc of Deforestation was only formed in the last 40 years, this already impacted the genetic diversity of the species (Banhos et al., 2016).
    Species range map
    This is the section where I find more problems. I will start with the distribution in the Atlantic Forest.
    This ecoregion has been reduced to 8-12% of its’ original cover, and the distribution shown today on IUCN’s map is exaggerated, as pointed by Luke Sutton. The Atlantic Forest was the second largest tropical forest worldwide. Destruction came during Portuguese colonization, and this is still a region where most Brazilians live, holding 70% of our population. Consequently, human population density is high, as is detection of wildlife (keep that information in mind since I will need it for some arguments).
    In this region, the current map is proposing that harpy eagles are present over a wide area that has NO FOREST COVER. I repeat: the vast majority of the proposed distribution within the Atlantic Forest has no forest cover at all, not to mention confirmed presence of harpy eagles. The species presence in the Atlantic Forest ecoregion is limited to public and private protected areas, as can be easily observed in wikiaves, the most popular birding website worldwide. I recommend yours to check it at: These handful protected areas in some cases have no breeding evidence*. I provide a working list that, in my opinion, should be considered the distribution of the harpy eagle in the Atlantic Forest:
    1. RPPN Serra Bonita (private reserve)
    2. Serra das Lontras National Park
    3. Una Wildlife Refuge
    4. Pau Brasil National Park
    5. RPPN Estação Veracel (private reserve)
    6. Sooretama Biological Reserve
    7. Vale (private reserve)
    8. Turvo State Park
    In some of these protected areas harpy eagles still suffer persecution from “neo-indians” who invaded protected areas.
    Out of these, there are very few records known in this ecoregion which represent lone individuals without breeding evidence. For those considering that I’m mixing absence of evidence with evidence of absence, I highlight that: (1) the Atlantic Forest is home to 70% of the 210 million Brazilians; (2) all over the Atlantic Forest we have a numerous and high active birders community; (3) a harpy eagle photo never fails into making it to wikiaves, being such a prized species for birders. Therefore, I believe the species occurrence in the Atlantic Forest should go no further than these previously pointed protected areas.

  8. Regarding the species widespread presence over central Brazil, I must point once again the mistake represented by this distribution. First, we must acknowledge that central Brazil is formed by savannah, not tropical forest. It is a major open landscape that we are talking about. Therefore, the presence of a tropical forest species along this region should cast some doubt. There are historical records of the species in the region, occurring exclusively within forest enclaves such as riparian forests, and nesting—according to the legendary Helmut Sick—in Mauritia flexuosa palms. If the species ever had an actual strong population in the region, we will never know. However, modern records show a couple dozen occurrences, without evidence of breeding, and always associated with forest enclaves and riparian forests. I don’t think any place within these savannah landscapes (known as Cerrado in Portuguese) hold a harpy eagle population, essentially because there is no evidence of it on birding databases. I believe that a couple nests of breeding individuals may be found in the future, just to point out an exception in an ecoregion where harpy eagles where never at home.
    Finally, we have the pan-Amazonian region. I ask my peers and the IUCN board to take into consideration the points I make in the beginning: (a) indigenous lands are habitat sections subjected to persecution (i.e. they cannot have the usual density we would expect for the amazon, we should crop that density); (b) the Arc of Deforestation can’t support nesting couples in landscapes that lost more than 50% of forest habitat; (c) persecution-related removal rates of 2.28 ind/100km²/year. As already mentioned by the board, vast section of seemly good habitat are logged and lack proper nesting trees, since >90% of nesting tree species are also timber species (Miranda et al., 2020).
    My shallow knowledge prevents me from making further comments about Middle America, but I agreed on the proposition of evaluating the species there independently. Considering the limited species occurrence on the Atlantic Forest, the whimsical possibility that it occurs in savannahs and the perfect storm of threats in the pan-Amazonian region, I would like to propose the species to be recategorized as Endangered.
    Yours sincerely,
    Everton Miranda, with the kind help of Vítor Carvalho-Rocha and Carlos Peres.
    * I considered breeding evidence to be: (a) harpy eagle couples; (b) nests themselves; (c) individuals showing immature coloration; (d) individuals with brown breast feathers, tainted by long contact with leaves during brooding.
    Aguiar-Silva, H. (2016). Uso e seleção de recursos por harpia em múltiplas escalas espaciais: persistência e vulnerabilidade. INPA.
    Banhos, A., Hrbek, T., Sanaiotti, T. M., & Farias, I. P. (2016). Reduction of Genetic Diversity of the Harpy Eagle in Brazilian Tropical Forests. PloS One, 11(2), e0148902.
    Miranda, E. B. P., Peres, C. A., & Downs, C. T. (2021). Perceptions of livestock predation (or the lack of it) and the persecution of harpy eagles. Animal Conservation, In Press(**), **.
    Miranda, Everton B. P., Peres, C. A., Carvalho-Rocha, V., Miguel, B. V., Lormand, N., Huizinga, N., Munn, C. A., Semedo, T. B. F., Ferreira, T. V., Pinho, J. B., Piacentini, V. Q., Marini, M. Â., & Downs, C. T. (2021). Tropical deforestation induces thresholds of reproductive viability and habitat suitability in Earth’s largest eagles. Submitted, **-**.
    Miranda, Everton B. P., Peres, C. A., Marini, M. Â., & Downs, C. T. (2020). Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja) nest tree selection: logging in Amazonian forests threatens Earth’s largest eagle. Biological Conservation, **(**), **.
    Oliveira, M. J. (2019). Manejo reprodutivo de harpia em cativeiro no Brasil [Universidade Federal do Paraná].
    Watson, R. T., McClure, C. J. W., Vargas, F. H., & Jenny, J. P. (2016). Trial Restoration of the Harpy Eagle, a Large, Long-lived, Tropical Forest Raptor, in Panama and Belize. Journal of Raptor Research, 50(1), 3–22.

  9. Diego Méndez says:

    The status of the Harpy Eagle in Bolivia is virtually unknown and data from this country that would be useful to support or reject this proposal go from very limited to inexistent. Nevertheless, I consider opportune to mention that the species may well be in worrying decline here, especially due to widespread deforestation (Bolivia occupies the second place in deforestation rates in South America, only after Brazil, despite being almost eight times smaller).

    For instance, in 2018, two Harpy Eagles, less than a year old, were rescued in the Santa Cruz province (eastern Bolivia) within a one-month period (August to September) because their nest trees were logged. Furthermore, the number of similar cases that are not reported is likely much larger.

  10. Red List Team (BirdLife International) says:

    Many thanks to everyone who has contributed to this discussion. We greatly appreciate the time and effort invested by so many people in commenting. The window for consultation is now closed. We will analyse and interpret the new information and post a preliminary decision on this species’s Red List status on this page in early July.

    Thank you once again,
    BirdLife Red List Team

  11. Red List Team (BirdLife International) says:

    Preliminary proposal

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2021 Red List would be to adopt the proposed classifications outlined in the initial forum discussion.

    We thank all contributors to the Forum for their valuable comments. There is legitimate concern for the populations in the Atlantic Forest and Central America, however assessing them separately is beyond the scope of this assessment which seeks to evaluate the global status of the species.

    Thank you to a number of contributors who highlighted errors and suggested improvements to our map—these will be made before submission to the IUCN and the EOO calculation will be updated in SIS to reflect this. We must, however, follow the guidelines in using a minimum convex polygon to calculate EOO based on the map we submit; this value may consequently differ from the alternative values presented on the Forum.

    Comments seem supportive of our proposal and the available data and comments suggest that, considering forest loss and hunting pressures, our suspected rate of decline is appropriate.

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline in late July, after which the recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    The final 2021 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in December 2021, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  12. Julian Baigorria says:

    Under the new evidence presented by Miranda, the critical situation of the species over the Atlantic Forest (I should add Misiones province in Argentina to Miranda’s list) and northernmost distribution above Costa Rica, I believe that “Endangered” does not sound very ambitious. Underestimating the real conservation status of a species can be very dangerous, especially when we are discussing about a top predator from the forest, and the opposite could help mitigate the present and futere threats for Harpy Eagles and other species, since these eagles are true “umbrella” species.

  13. Red List Team (BirdLife International) says:

    Recommended categorisation to be put forward to IUCN

    The final categorisation for this species has not changed. Harpy Eagle is recommended to be listed as Vulnerable under Criterion A3cd+4cd. Although there is legitimate concern for populations in the Atlantic Forest and in some other parts of the range, this assessment seeks to evaluate the overall status of the species at a global level.

    Many thanks for everyone who contributed to the 2021 GTB Forum process. The final 2021 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in December 2021, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

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