The Bird King

Grandeur, Beauty and PowerThe Philippine Eagle.

The Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) is one of the rarest, largest and most powerful birds in the world. This bird of prey, or raptor, belongs to the family Accipitridae.

The world’s largest bird of prey can only be found in Southeast Asia, specifically in our country the Philippines. Discovered by English naturalist Jeffery Whitehead more than a hundred years ago in 1896, it was first called the “Monkey-Eating Eagle” because it was thought that it only eat monkeys. *or somebody who look like one? ; based on reports from natives that it preyed exclusively on monkeys (hence its generic name, from the Greek pithecus ("ape or monkey") and phagus ("eater (of)") . Later studies revealed, however, that they also prey on other animals such as colugo, civets, large snakes, monitor lizards, and even large birds like hornbills. This, and the fact that the same name applied to the African Crowned Hawk-eagle and the South American Harpy Eagle resulted in a presidential proclamation to change its name to Philippine Eagle.

Locals call it “Haribon” – from the Filipino words “Hari” (king) and “Ibon” (bird) or “Haring Ibon” (Bird King). This raptor’s territory used to cover the whole of the Philippines from Luzon Island (north) to Mindanao Island (South) (OK I myself did not know this but the whole Philippines OMG!!). It is now more concentrated in the south and a discovery of a nest make national headlines! On August 11, 2007, a breeding pair of Philippine Eagle were discovered nesting in Zamboanga del Norte and were doing (mutual soaring) courtship flying displays above an old nest tree in Barangay Linay, Baliguian. As of August 2007, the egg was expected to be laid on September, 2007. The Linay nesting site is the lowest recorded for Philippine Eagles in Mindanao (369 meters above sea level); the DENR declared it as a Philippine Eagle "critical habitat" through RA 9147 or the Philippine Wildlife Act.

One of a Kind

The country's national bird, the Philippine Eagle, is one of a kind, not only because it is found nowhere else, but also since it has a unique evolutionary history, clearly distinguishing it from other giant eagles once thought of as its immediate family. At least this is what a recent study of the Philippine Eagles' DNA suggests. Scientists from the University of Michigan, USA analyzed DNA isolated from blood samples of the Philippine Eagle and those of the Harpy Eagle and Crested Eagles of the Americas and the New Guinea Harpy Eagle of New Guinea, all equal heavyweights of the bird world.

All of the last three giants named are close relatives as revealed by DNA sequences, but only remotely related to the Philippine Eagle. He also said that all of the five traditional "harpy eagle group" members live in tropical forests, feeding mainly on medium-sized mammals. "But based on the genetic analysis, the similarities between the Philippine Eagle and the other harpies resulted not from kinship but from convergent change, driven by natural selection for reproductive success in tropical forests and a shared taste for mammals," Dr. Mindell added. Amazingly, Mindell's team also found that the only distant relatives of Philippine Eagles are snake eagles found elsewhere in Southeast Asia and far Africa.

In the Philippines, it is distantly related to the featherweight but equally imposing Serpent Eagle, which breeds in this country but is also common in Asia. The study of Dr, Mindell's team passed expert reviews and was published in the scientific journal "Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution".

In the Philippines

The Philippine Eagle is now known as the National Bird of the Philippines and this has helped increase awareness of the bird and its plight. The American bald eagle will be replaced by the Philippine eagle on the logo of Pacific Paint (Boysen) Philippines Inc. per official announcement on August 24, 2007 at the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) center in Malagos, Baguio District, Davao where the company adopted a 7-month-old eagle bred in captivity but which would in time be released to the wild. Boysen named the eagle Pin-Pin (Pinturang Pinoy) the 21st Philippine eagle bred in captivity at the PEF center. In 2004, Vice President Noli de Castro adopted a PEF-bred eagle named Kabayan which was released into the forests of Mt. Apo in North Cotabato, but was electrocuted at the reservation of the Philippine National Oil Corp.


The 2007 IUCN Red List Category (as evaluated by BirdLife International - the official Red List Authority for birds for IUCN) included it as Critically Endangered.

Its numbers have slowly dwindled over the decades with only an estimated 500 pairs left. The Philippine Eagle may soon no longer be found in the wild, unless direct intervention is taken. The Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) of Davao City is one such organization dedicated to the protection and conservation of the Philippine Eagle and its forest habitat. In fact, PEF has been successfully breeding Philippine Eagles in captivity for over a decade now and has also conducted the first experimental release of a captive-bred eagle to the wild. Ongoing research on behavior, ecology and population dynamics is also underway.

The Philippine Eagle is threatened with extinction. Less than 500 pairs of ‘em are left in the wild. The problem isn’t by poaching or illegal wildlife traders this time; as Filipinos guard this national treasure with their lives. The main culprit is the destruction of their habitat which the main culprits are the same ones who guard them. The irony of it all, SO we must preserve our environment in order to save the Philippine Eagle!!

OK I'll be blogging every other day now since I've read in pinoy blogero that I could be choking my readers with too many overwhelming posts (I'll just try this if Like I have that many readers anyway) and also its my midterms next week, so expect me ranting on my Subjects. Enjoy!

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The Bird King The Bird King Reviewed by Vernon Joseph Go on Wednesday, January 23, 2008 Rating: 5

1 comment

  1. indeed we should all help save our Philippine eagles!
    lets not wait till we ran out of time before we do something. for once we ran out of these eagles we can never bring them back to the ecosystem.