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New Guinea Harpy Eagle
Harpyopsis novaeguineae

Status: Vulnerable

Population Trend: Declining.

Other Names: Kapul Eagle, New Guinea Eagle, Papuan Eagle.

Harpyopsis novaeguineae
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Distribution: Australasian. Endemic to NEW GUINEA. more....

Subspecies: Monotypic.

Taxonomy: Debus (1994) suggested that this species is probably more closely related to Australasian forms than to the Harpy or Philippine Eagles. Based on molecular sequences of two mitochondrial genes and one nuclear intron, Lerner and Mindell (2005) found that the genera Harpia (Harpy Eagle), Morphnus (Crested Eagle), and Harpyopsis are highly similar in sequence and form a well defined clade. However, they are not closely related to the Philippine Eagle Pithecophaga jefferyi, which appears to be sister to a clade of snake eagles.

Movements: Non-migratory, with juveniles dispersing from breeding areas (Bildstein 2006).

Habitat and Habits: Occurs in extensively forested areas and locally in patches of gallery forest in savanna and monsoon scrub from sea level to 3,700 m; also visits clearings and native gardens (Coates 1985, Beehler et al. 1992, Debus 1994). Although it is found at sea level where there is suitable, undisturbed forest, it is now essentially a montane species by default (Peckover and Filewood 1976). Most observers have characterized it as usually inconspicuous and not prone to soaring above the canopy. For example, Debus (1994) described it as flying low over the canopy or through forest, rarely over clearings, and perching on limbs within the canopy. Solitary, or occurs in pairs. Generally crepuscular, or even partially nocturnal, and may be heard calling at night (Diamond 1972). more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Feeds mostly on arboreal and terrestrial mammals, including opossums, cuscuses, giant rats, wallabies, small pigs, and dogs, and birds, lizards, and snakes (Diamond 1972, Coates 1985). Pursues prey by running and leaping on the ground, or walking up steeply-sloping branches and trunks and using its claws to extract prey from tree cavities, or to tear epiphytes apart (Beehler 1992, Coates and Peckover 2001). A purported incident of one of these eagles attacking and carrying a child to a branch is very dubious (Majnep and Bulmer 1977). Several observers have seen this species striking epiphytes with its wings or shaking foliage to flush prey (Watson and Asoyama 2001). It also perch hunts from a series of fixed sites within the forest, dropping from a branch to capture prey on the ground (Debus 1994). L. Legra (pers. comm.) has encountered this eagle walking quietly on the forest floor, probably in search of megapodes or other terrestrial prey. The prominent facial disc may have an auditory function, as in owls (Diamond 1972, Coates 1977), and it is well known that these eagles hunt at night. The local name, "Kapul Eagle." refers to its habit of feeding on kapul (a marsupial) (Mayr and Gilliard 1954). more....

Breeding: Nesting occurs from at least April to August (Gilliard and Mayr 1954, Coates 1985), which is during the late wet season through the dry season (Debus 1994). Legra (2005) recently studied the breeding behavior of this species in the Crater Mountain Wildlife Management Area in the Eastern Highlands. He made observations at six nests, and all were huge structures (up to 3 m wide x 3 m high!) composed mainly of epiphytic vegetation with sticks added by the birds and placed on a massive limb below the crown of an emergent tree, usually growing on a slope. Some previous reports (e.g., Debus 1994) of Harpyopsis nests in isolated Eugenia trees may be those of the superficially similar Long-tailed Buzzard (Debus 1994). Nests are re-used in successive breeding attempts and become ever larger, as more material is added (Peckover and Filewood 1976). Clutch size is probably one egg, as no more than one young is known to have been fledged from a single nest (n = ~10) (Coates 1985, Legra 2005); the egg has not been described. Both parents feed the chick. It is likely that this species breeds only once every two years, or even less often, as is the case with other large forest eagles (e.g., Harpy Eagle, Philippine Eagle). more....

Conservation: Rare in more heavily settled areas, where it suffers from hunting pressure for its feathers (for ceremonial head-dresses) and habitat loss, especially following the opening up of previously inaccessible areas by logging roads (Coates 2001, Watson and Asoyama 2001, Legra 2005). It may suffer in some areas from competition with humans for prey (A. Mack). However, it seems to still be relatively common in more remote areas (J. Diamond pers. comm.). This species is frequently confused by indigenous people with the Long-tailed Buzzard (Henicopernis longicauda), which adds to the difficulty of determining its actual status. Classified as Vulnerable by BirdLife International. more....

Population Estimates: Ferguson-Lees and Christie (2001) tentatively estimated the global population at the start of the breeding season from 1,000 to 10,000 individuals, although they suspected that it may only be in the low to mid-thousands. BirdLife International (2009) estimated the total population of mature individuals at 2,500 to 9,999 birds, noted that the supporting data are poor. Very litte is actually known about the population size or density of this species.

Important References: 
Beehler, B.M., T.K. Pratt, and D.A. Zimmerman. 1986. Birds of New Guinea.
  Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.
BirdLife International. 2000. Threatened birds of the world. Lynx
  Edicions, Barcelona, Spain, and BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.
Coates, B.J. 1985. The birds of Papua New Guinea, including the Bismarck
  Archipelago and Bougainville. Vol. I. Non-passerines. Dove Publications,
  Alderley, Queensland, Australia.
Coates, B.J. 2001. Birds of New Guinea and the Bismarck Archipelago: a
  photographic guide. Dove Publications, Alderley, Queensland, Australia.
Debus, S.J.S. 1994. New Guinea Eagle. Pp. 191-192 in del Hoyo, J., A.
  Elliott, and J. Sargatal (eds). Handbook of birds of the world. Vol. 2. New
  World vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Legra, L.A.T. 2005. Nest-site selection and behavioural biology of the New
  Guinea Harpy Eagle, Harpyopsis novaeguineae. Honours dissertation,
  University of Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
Rand, A.L., and E.T. Gilliard. 1967. Handbook of New Guinea birds.
  Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London.
Watson, M., and S. Asoyama. 2001. Dispersion, habitat use, hunting
  behavior, vocalizations, and conservation status of the New Guinea Harpy
  Eagle (Harpyopsis novaehollandiae). Journal of Raptor Research 35:235-239.

Sites of Interest:
The Peregrine Fund
Supports field studies in the eastern highlands of Papua New Guinea.
Red Data Book Threatened Birds of Asia
Inforamtion on status, threats, and proposed conservation actions.

Gilbert, Martin
Legra, Leo

Last modified: 6/6/2010

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2020. Species account: New Guinea Harpy Eagle Harpyopsis novaeguineae. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 7 Jul. 2020

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