The Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) fits a lot of superlatives as a bird of prey: one of the world’s largest, tallest, most beautiful, and most powerful birds. However, it is also one of the rarest and most critically endangered.
Called by American aviator Charles Lindbergh as the world’s “noblest flier,” the Philippine Eagle was once known as the monkey-eating eagle because of earlier reports that it preyed solely on monkeys. However, this bird actually sits on top of the food chain, with other animals such as flying lemurs, squirrels, snakes, monitor lizards, bats and owls forming part of its diet.
The Philippine Eagle is recognizable with its unique head crest resembling a lion’s mane, adding to its majestic appearance and earning for it the name Haring Ibon (Bird King). Its keen daytime eyesight which can be four to five times stronger than a human’s perfect vision, sharp hooked talons, dagger beak, and a flight that is fast and agile, uncharacteristic for such a large bird, all make for a very dangerous bird of prey.
On the average, Haring Ibon ranks second to the Harpy Eagle of Central and South America in terms of weight (eight versus nine kilograms). As the tallest eagle, it measures more than one meter from the tip of the bill to the tip of the longest tail feather. Its wings have the largest surface area among all eagles in the world, with its wingspan exceeding two meters in length.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates about 500 mature individuals, mostly found in Mindanao and with the rest sighted in Samar, Leyte and in the Cordillera and Sierra Madre mountain ranges in Luzon. Its decreasing population in the wild is further threatened with uncontrolled hunting, loss of habitat due to forest destruction, and pollution. It is also monogamous and can lay only one egg in two years. Since 1994, the IUCN has classified the Philippine Eagle as “critically endangered” in its Red List of Threatened Species.
The Philippine Eagle is the flagship species of the Philippine Raptors Conservation Program implemented by the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-PAWB) in 10 regions nationwide. The program’s output include an established database on the population distribution of the Philippine Eagle; to have their outputs proclaimed as protected area; to release captive-bred raptors in the wild; and to enjoin the participation of surrounding communities in wildlife conservation activities.
Some of the efforts that have been undertaken to conserve this majestic eagle are the following:
- Declaration of the Philippine Eagle as the country’s national bird through Presidential Proclamation No. 615 signed by then-President Fidel Ramos on July 4, 1995;
- Declaration of June 4-10 of every year as “Philippine Eagle Week” through Presidential Proclamation No. 79 signed by then-President Joseph Estrada on February 24, 1999;
- Depiction of the Philippine Eagle at least 12 times on Philippine postage stamps and on coins to increase information dissemination;
- Proclamation of natural habitats such as Northern Sierra Madre, Mt. Kitanglad and Mt. Apo as protected areas;
- Establishment of the Philippine Eagle Foundation, which runs the Philippine Eagle Center in Davao City to oversee captive breeding efforts and an reintroduction program as well as the monitoring and conservation of wild populations
For more information:
PAWB’s Philippine Raptors Conservation Program:
IUCN Red List information on the Philippine Eagle: http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/144490/0