Meet the Strongest Bird on the Planet That Looks Like a Human in a Costume!

Written by Sharon Parry
Published: November 27, 2023
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If you’ve never seen a harpy eagle, this footage could be a bit of a shock! Pound for pound, it is the most robust bird on the planet. It’s so big you could be forgiven for thinking that it is a human in fancy dress. Its ferocious talons can be 5 inches long and exert 500 pounds of pressure. This makes them very useful for crushing prey. While some bird species are known for their super thin legs, the opposite is true of the harpy eagle. Their legs are the same diameter as a human wrist. They do not let their size get in the way of their speed and can reach 50 miles per hour!

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Where Do Harpy Eagles Normally Live?

Harpy Eagles are a native species of Central and South America. You can find them from southern Mexico to eastern Bolivia and through southern Brazil and northern Argentina. They live in the canopies of tropical lowland rainforests. In particular, these birds do not like to be disturbed, so they keep away from any human activity if they can. They are usually found in the mid to upper levels of rainforest canopies. They build nests in tall trees high above the forest floor. If you are lucky, you may spot them hunting along open patches of land. These giant birds have a lifespan of between 25 and 35 years.

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How Do Harpy Eagles Normally Hunt?

Harpy eagles grab prey with their massive talons.

©Alfredo Maiquez/

Eagles are solitary hunters. They have excellent eyesight, allowing them to spot prey in the thick rainforest vegetation. These guys are also patient and willing to perch for 23 hours, waiting for a suitable target. They have a relatively short wingspan for their size to maneuver between the trees in dense forest habitats. These birds usually hunt during the day and are very territorial about their hunting territories. They are quite likely to drive competitors away from their areas!

Unsurprisingly, they use their huge talons to subdue prey, having snatched it from the canopy. Then, they usually carry the prey away to somewhere peaceful to feed. Their diet mainly consists of sloths and primates, but they have also been seen eating lizards and other birds. Sometimes, they catch small rodents and have even been seen preying on small deer!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Beker Yepez/

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About the Author

Dr Sharon Parry is a writer at A-Z animals where her primary focus is on dogs, animal behavior, and research. Sharon holds a PhD from Leeds University, UK which she earned in 1998 and has been working as a science writer for the last 15 years. A resident of Wales, UK, Sharon loves taking care of her spaniel named Dexter and hiking around coastlines and mountains.

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