Harpy Eagle Wingspan & Size: How Big Are They?

Written by Colby Maxwell
Updated: January 23, 2023
© Alfredo Maiquez/Shutterstock.com
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Harpy eagles are some of the largest flying birds in the entire world. Covered with slate-gray feathers on top with white feathers underneath, this bird is easily recognizable. If the coloring wasn’t enough, harpy eagles have a plumed crest that can help to clearly identify them. They are rare, even within their range, and are considered threatened by the IUCN. These amazing eagles are worth protecting and learning about. Let’s look and learn: Harpy Eagle Wingspan & Size: How Big Are They?

Harpy Eagle Wingspan & Size: How Big Are They?

Harpy Eagle Wingspan & Size: How Big Are They?
Harpy eagles have short, broad wingspans, up to 7 foot 4 inches.

©Chepe Nicoli/Shutterstock.com

Harpy eagles are easily some of the largest flying birds in the world. They are sexually dimorphic, meaning the females are larger than the males. This is rather common in most raptor species and allows the males to hunt more easily while the female defends the nest. Females can weigh up to 20 pounds, with some captive examples exceeding 22 pounds. Males are significantly smaller, only weighing up to 13 pounds in the wild (about a 35% difference between the sexes). They can be up to 3 foot 6 inches in height (head to tail), but their height depends on their sex.

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When it comes to their wingspan, harpy eagles have some of the largest of all eagles. They average between 5 foot 9 to 7 foot 4, but most fall somewhere in the middle. Their talons can grow up to 5 inches long and are razer sharp – you wouldn’t want to be a rabbit near a harpy eagle!

Where do harpy eagles live?

Harpy Eagle Wingspan & Size: How Big Are They?
Harpy eagles live across Central and South America.

©Alfredo Maiquez/Shutterstock.com

Harpy eagles live all across Central and South America, although their numbers are low, making them rare across the range. They are currently found in southern Mexico, all the way through Central and South America, with their southernly range ending in northern Argentina.

Harpy eagles generally prefer the rainforests of Central and South America. They live in the jungle and stick to the trees. Their preferred habitat is large expanses of forests, and they rarely fly above the canopy or venture into larger, open areas. As such, they are specifically adapted for their habitats and specific flying needs under the canopy.

The eagles are most common in Brazil, where they can be found in almost every region at some time or another. Currently, they are under continued threat as logging threatens their habitat, most notably in Central America. As rainforests decline, they are almost extinct in Central America and only have small regions in Panama. Aside from habitat removal from logging and raising cattle, they were killed off in large numbers. They are fearless birds that farmers found threatening to their livestock.

Why do harpy eagles have such large wingspans?

Although, harpy Eagles have broad wings, compared to other eagles, their wingspans aren’t so long. While harpy eagles have large wingspans (sometimes over 7 feet), they aren’t as long as other eagle species. This is actually an advantage that has to do with the habitat that harpy eagles live in. Since the primary habitat of harpy eagles is under the canopy of rainforests, they need to be able to quickly maneuver and hunt prey through the twisting and tangled trees. Relative to their size, the harpy eagle has a shorter wingspan, but broader wings, allowing them to be significantly more mobile than other species of eagles would be.

If a bald or golden eagle attempted to maneuver through the canopy, a crash would likely happen. With the added surface area of a harpy eagle’s wings, quickly turning or taking off is easier. The drawback is that they aren’t suited for the types of flying that other eagles participate in—notably, incredibly high altitudes and soaring long distances.

How far and fast can a harpy eagle fly?

Harpy Eagle Wingspan & Size: How Big Are They?
Designed for agility, harpy eagles can fly up to 50 mph through dense canopy cover.

Since a harpy eagle doesn’t have to worry about traveling great distances to find food, it isn’t really a part of its behavior to fly for long periods of time. Instead, they sit perched in trees, waiting for movement in the canopy. Once they spot something, they can take off and catch animals (sometimes up to 20 pounds) that live in treetops. Some harpy eagles have been known to perch and wait for up to 23 hours at a time.

When they finally see prey, they can reach speeds of 50 mph and snatch large animals right from a tree. They are among the strongest of any eagle species, giving them the ability to kill and carry prey larger than they are. When a harpy eagle hits, its talons can exert hundreds of pounds of pressure at once, often killing its prey instantly.

Is a harpy eagle bigger than a bald eagle?

When it comes to size, the harpy eagle is larger than a bald eagle. In regards to height, harpy eagles are taller; they can be up to 3 foot 6, whereas bald eagles are closer to an even 3 feet. Additionally, harpy eagles weigh more, often weighing as much as 20 pounds, whereas bald eagles only weigh 14 pounds.

The only real competition between the two is with wingspan. Bald eagles have similar wingspans to harpy eagles, but that is only because harpy eagles have much shorter, broader wings. When it comes to strength, the harpy is much stronger, often being regarded as the most powerful eagle in the world.

What birds are bigger than a harpy eagle?

Harpy Eagle Wingspan & Size: How Big Are They?
Harpy eagles are often considered to be the most powerful raptors in the world.

©TIKO IGITYAN/Shutterstock.com

When it comes to wingspan, there are a few birds that have larger wingspans. Most albatross and pelican species, for example, are have larger wingspans than the harpy eagle. When it comes to power, however, the harpy is up near the top of the list. Harpy eagles have been known to kill howler monkeys, taking them directly from the limbs of trees in the canopy. Their talon size and strength are what truly sets them apart.

The African crowned eagle, however, is a solid contender. They have wingspans similar to that of the harpy and are known to kill duikers, deer weighing up to 74 pounds. Pound for pound, however, the harpy eagle is probably still the winner when it comes to power.


The Featured Image

deadliest bird on earth: harpy eagle
With talons that can extend up to six inches, the harpy eagle can catch prey as large as sloths and monkeys.
© Alfredo Maiquez/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Colby is a freelance writer from Charlotte, North Carolina. When he isn't distracted by his backyard birdfeeder, you can find him camping, exploring, and telling everyone around him about what he's recently learned. There's a whole world to learn about and Colby is content to spend his life learning as much as he can about it!

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