The Honduran Eagles
Tomado de: Honduras this Week Online
By SHERRY THORN & DAVID MEDINA
Honduras has more than 700 species of birds with 20 of the 27 orders of birds of the world, making it a great place to birdwatch.
One of the 20 orders of birds found here is Falconiformes or the diurnal raptors which includes falcons, caracaras, hawks, hawk-eagles, kites and real eagles. All are carnivorous and have extremely sharp, hooked beaks to rip off pieces of meat and very sharp nails to catch their prey.
Honduras has 46 species of Falconiformes, 35 of the Accipitridae family that includes hawks, eagles, ospreys and hawk-eagles and 11 of the Falconidae family that includes caracaras and falcons.
There are about 50 species of eagles in the whole world; three of which are found in this country. The three eagles are all endangered and very rare. They include the Solitary Eagle, Harpyhaliaetus solitarius; the Crested Eagle, Morphnus guianensis; and the magnificent Harpy Eagle, Harpia harpyja.
In Honduras, the solitary eagle is found both in mountains and foothills while the crested and harpy eagles are limited to lowland rain forest, mainly in La Mosquitia. The Solitary Eagle has only been reported from the Talanga Valley where a specimen was obtained in 1937.
The Crested Eagle has only been reported from La Ceiba in 1902 and 1903 and San Pedro Sula in 1890 and 1949. An active nest of a Crested Eagle was photographed by representatives of the Peregrine Fund while flying over Krausirpe in 1999. The Peregrine Fund is a non-governmental organization (NGO) with offices in Idaho, USA and Panama City, Panama and is dedicated to the study and conservation of raptors around the world.
Hunters display an eagle shot in Northern Honduras
The Harpy Eagle, the national bird of Panama, like all other raptors, has sexual dimorphism with the female being the larger of the two sexes. An adult Harpy Eagle is almost 3 feet long from the tip of its beak to the end of its tail. A female Harpy Eagle can weigh between 20 and 25 pounds while a male weighs about 15 pounds. They have a wing space of over 6 feet and they feed on monkeys, anteaters, kinkajous, sloths and other small mammals.
These birds are monogamous and live 40 years. They do not start to reproduce until they are 4 or 5 years old and lay 1 or 2 eggs in their nest of branches that is about 6 feet tall and 6 feet wide that they build in giant Ceiba or similar trees of up to 30 feet tall but only one chick survives. The chick leaves the nest when it is 6 months old, but usually stays with the parents until it is 2 or 3 years old.
Unfortunately, this majestic bird has disappeared from most of Mexico and Central America and its populations are declining in South America. One of the reasons is that people think that this bird robs children or livestock. In the photo, you can see where some peasants near Patuca River in La Mosquitia shot one of the few Harpy Eagles left in the country. Over the years, several Harpy Eagles have been killed often to have its feathers or claws as souvenirs.
Both writers are ornithologists in the biology department at the Honduran National Autonomous University.