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Looking for Big Harpy Eagles in Panama


    Looking for harpy eagles

    Panama ranks as top-of-the-line birdwatching spots on this planet and plenty of uncommon species thrive on this tropical isthmus. However I used to be drawn to go to the slim strip of land linking South and Central America by one of many world’s largest and most luxurious birds of prey: the harpy eagle. 

    close up of harpy eagle in trees beak open as it calls

    Panama’s nationwide chicken

    The harpy eagle is the nationwide chicken of Panama and has been on my bucket record for a while. Named after the harpies of Greek mythology, grotesque girls with the our bodies of birds, this gigantic eagle is probably the most highly effective raptor on earth and its rear talons can measure 5 inches – greater than the claws of a grizzly bear. 

    An extended journey to seek for harpy eagles

    To see it, I travelled from the UK to the Darién rainforest the place I used to be a visitor of Cover Camp. This eco-lodge is situated on the fringe of this dense jungle and I had had been instructed that the guides there knew the place there was a nest with a harpy eagle chick on it.

    brightly coloured rufous-motmot bird perched on branch
    A vibrant rufous motmot chicken

    After my lengthy journey I used to be desperate to search for it right away, however I couldn’t assist however be distracted by the thrill of wildlife within the camp. Kind the very prime of the tree cover proper to the bottom, the place teemed with brightly colored birds and unique animals.

    Tourism is important to Panama’s financial system and the homeowners of Cover Camp had been eager to point out off the sheer number of wildlife this area has to supply. Hummingbirds flashed on chicken feeders unnoticed to draw them and troops of monkeys dashed about snatching up bananas from feeding stations. I noticed a motion via the dense undergrowth and moments later a band of white-nosed coatis appeared, their stripey tails held aloft as they foraged.  

    white faced capuchin monkey chewing on stick
    White-faced capuchin monkey

    Then some white-faced capuchin monkeys got here to the feeding space. I watched one seize as many bananas because it might and scurry away with one in its mouth, one in its palms and one tucked beneath its armpit. Additional up within the timber on a protracted horizontal department had been a gaggle of Geoffroy’s tamarins. Their high-pitched calls gave their location away they groomed each other in flip. In the meantime all about had been extra brightly colored birds than my mind might soak up.  

    Journey to the Darien Hole

    On my second day we got down to attempt to see the harpy eagle. We had a 40-minute drive down the Pan American Freeway. This 30,000 km community of roads take you proper throughout the Americas, from the very prime of Alaska to Tierra del Fuego on the very tip of Argentina. mist hanging over jungle in darian gap panama

    The highway additionally kinds Panama’s central freeway because it travels alongside the size of this slim nation. But it surely stops 97kms earlier than the Colombian border the place a decent community of rivers, mountainous terrain and dense jungle vegetation is makes the area nearly impenetrable.  Referred to as the Darién Hole, this area is likely one of the wildest locations on this planet and is simply actually traversable by boat. On the Chucunaque River, Panama’s longest, we swapped our automobile for a dugout canoe and headed downstream. 

    a canoe with photographers filmin the darian jungle on the chucunaque river
    Canoeing on the Chucunaque River

    Traversing swamps on horseback

    After 35 minutes we arrived at a farm and lifted our heavy digital camera gear up a muddy financial institution earlier than treading haphazard board walks to fulfill Mariano, the pinnacle of the González household who personal La Escondida farm. Chickens and muscovy geese ran at our toes and herds of cattle grazed the swampy land. There have been no farm buildings, only a breezeblock home with a tin roof the place the household lived. On the home we discovered a row of horses ready for us. Mariano and his household are enormously happy with the truth that they’ve harpy eagles nesting on their land and had been very eager to take us to see them. 

    artist robert e fuller on horse back with farmhouse behind

    However the subsequent stage of our journey was probably the most tough. Big, darkish clouds had been gathering above us, threatening to flood the already water-logged floor and make it much more tough to traverse. However at this level in my journey nothing was going to cease me attending to the harpy eagle nest.

    Dripping in sweat from the humidity, I bought steadily wetter as I loaded my digital camera luggage onto the ready horses.  I hadn’t been on a horse since I used to be a younger boy, and I started to really feel equally childish when certainly one of Mariano’s sons reached lead me and horse throughout the panorama.  But it surely quickly grew to become apparent why we would have liked horses. The mud reached as much as the animal’s knees and the boys usually misplaced their boots within the bathroom. Not solely had I just lately torn a ligament in my knee, however even when I hadn’t there was no means I might have carried my heavy digital camera gear throughout this swampy land on foot.  

    First sighting of a harpy eagle

    After an hour, the moist pastures gave technique to timber and shortly we had been again within the forest. Right here the forest was too dense for horses and so we continued on foot. I used to be getting scorching and feeling saddle-sore by the point our information, Eliecer, ultimately pointed a finger to a small hole excessive within the tree cover. 

    And there it was. An enormous nest, resting within the fork of a cuipo tree. Cuipo timber are the most important timber of this area and measure as much as 200ft excessive, towering excessive of the remainder of the cover.  The whole lot on this forest appeared super-sized, and so after I noticed a feminine harpy eagle sitting contained in the nest, it felt so surreal. Like coming throughout a legendary big in an outsized land.  

    harpy eagle with chick in nest

    Harpy eagles are revered all through the Americas

    Right here was the world’s strongest chicken of prey, simply 60m away. As I scrambled to get my cameras, I couldn’t fairly consider my eyes. The harpy eagle is so spectacular it’s revered throughout Central and South America. As I skilled my lens on it, it known as out, a protracted whistle that rang out throughout the forest.  

    Eliecer stated the sound meant she was hungry and was calling for the male to carry meals. After which a small white head appeared over the rim of the nest. A chick about one month outdated. The feminine leaned over it, her solely chick, and for a second she seemed fiercely protecting.  Mesmerised, we watched her and her chick for a complete of six hours, ignoring the humidity. All through, the feminine known as many times for meals. Then she took flight, her big two-metre wings at full unfold as she headed off into the forest. 

    Ready for a male harpy eagle

    However she didn’t go far, and I might simply see her in a close-by tree. She was tussling with one thing which made me assume she was looking, however then she arrived again with a department and it appeared that she was simply refreshing the nest with some greenery. 

    She did, nonetheless, appear hungry and saved looking out the nest for meals in useless. Males don’t carry meals day by day we had been starting to surrender hope on seeing her mate in any respect once we heard the male lastly return the feminine’s calls.  Then swiftly, the male flew into the nest carrying prey. It was exhausting to see what he had introduced because it crammed his talons, however we watched the feminine take it from him and start to feed it to the chick. 

    male harpy eagle perched in branch of tree

    The male was smaller than the feminine. We watched him look across the nest earlier than flying as much as the department above. He was there lengthy sufficient for me to get some superb footage of him after which he took flight, melting again into the forest.  

    Harpy eagle has nearly legendary standing

    Though harpy eagles are extremely strong- they usually catch sloths and monkeys – their wingspan is considerably smaller than that of, say a sea eagle, which is sensible as a result of they stay in dense forest the place they want to have the ability to fly between timber.  It was tough to pull myself away nevertheless it was time to move again and so we set off to observe our journey in reverse: strolling via the forest, using on horseback throughout the swamp, canoeing down the river and eventually again into the automobile.  

    As we re-joined the Pan-American Freeway a rainstorm burst over our heads. However I barely seen it as I assumed concerning the unbelievable day I had had. Harpy eagles are so uncommon and elusive, I felt I had entered a fabled world and watched a mythological chicken.  


    Robert Fuller was a visitor of Cover Tower ( To expertise the same wildlife watching journey to Panama, he has teamed up with UK-based tour operator Wildfoot Journey to create bespoke wildlife and chicken watching itineraries. For extra info observe this hyperlink: