NEST OF RARE HARPY EAGLE FOUND IN BELIZE - 12/31/10 03:52 PM
The Harpy Eagle is the most powerful bird of prey in the Americas, but it is classed as “Near Threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and as “critically endangered” in Belize. That is why it is major news that, for the first time locally, an active Harpy Eagle’s nest with a chick was discovered in the Bladen Nature Reserve. The find was made by the Belize Foundation for Research and Environmental Education (BFREE). It is also big news for international conservation, since Belize is the furthest north that Harpy Eagles have been recorded breeding. These birds a wingspan of up seven feet when fully grown and weigh up to twenty pounds. But the effects of deforestation and hunting, has almost wiped out the eagle from most of Central America.Channel 5
From top to bottom: A pair of adult harpy eagles in 2010, by Sharna Tolfree (BFREE); a juvenile harpy in 2007, by Steven Brewer (BFREE); the newly discovered nest in 2010, by William Garcia (BFREE)
Two adult Harpies and one five-week old nestling were discovered in November, when Belizean technicians were patrolling the Bladen Nature Reserve in the Mayan Mountains of Belize. The area is rugged and remote, but scientists have searched for signs of the bird there since 2005, when an adult was first spotted.
Harpy Eagles are known as the most powerful raptor in the Americas, weighing up to 20 pounds and reaching a seven-foot wingspan. They hunt prey as large as monkeys and sloths for food. However, due to deforestation and hunting, Harpy Eagles are typically missing from most of Central America's rainforests, where they once freely ranged. They are designated as "Near Threatened" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and considered "Critically Endangered" in Belize.
It's currently unclear how or why the birds managed to nest in the area. According to Rotenberg, the active nesting site is a sign that the reserve is functioning to keep wildlife safe from dangers associated with human interference.
"Biologically, the presence of the Harpy pair and chick signifies an in-tact eco-system that extends to the highest predator," Rotenberg says.
Following the spotting in 2005, BFREE, in conjunction with Rotenberg, submitted a grant proposal to The Nature Conservancy Belize Program, proposing an innovative science-based program that would focus on avian conservation and awareness. Funded in 2006, the Integrated Community-Based Harpy Eagle and Avian Conservation Program links Belizeans to the protected areas of land adjacent to their homes through specific environmental awareness projects. Belize is a small, English-speaking country about the size of Massachusetts, with approximately 40 percent of its lands protected in reserves and parks.
Recently, the program has grown to include collaboration with The Institute for Bird Populations in California, BioDiversity Research Institute in Maine, and York University in Canada. Rotenberg has taken approximately 50 UNC Wilmington students to Belize to work with BFREE as part of the study abroad program he offers. Undertaking undergraduate internships as well as master's level projects, students have worked closely with the bird study site and the community awareness program.
For more information, please visit http://www.bfreebz.org/ and http://sites.google.com/site/rotenbergj/home
In a frame from a video, a mother harpy eagle guards her nestling. Credit: William Garcia, BFREE.