Great Philippine eagle

A Noble Eagle on the Edge of Extinction Thrives Under Devoted Caretakers

People living in the United States are well familiar with the country’s majestic bald eagle. Fewer know about the equally spectacular eagle found in the Philippines known as Banog, which means the bird of prey. The Philippine Eagle or Pithecophaga Jeffery is also referred to as the monkey-eating eagle for its favorite jungle meal. Unfortunately, only an estimated 400 birds are left in the wild in an area that encompasses roughly 50 square miles. But, thanks to the efforts of the Philippine Eagle Center, the numbers are gradually increasing.

Preying Upon the Birds of Prey

Since 2010, BirdLife International and the International Union for Conservation of Nature deemed the Philippine Eagle as being endangered. For hundreds of years, the skilled hunter survived and thrived in the islands. However, extensive forest removal and poaching have steadily caused a decline in the species, which greatly increases the possibility of eagle extinction. It is illegal to capture and sell the birds dead or alive.

In 2008, a bird formerly treated and released from the center was equipped with a tracking device. When staff members noted that something was amiss with the bird’s activity, they discovered that a local farm killed the bird for food. He was arrested and imprisoned for six years. He also incurred a $2,000 fine. However, as senior staff member Eddie Juntilla explains, although hunting is illegal, cases are rarely investigated. The high levels of deforestation also continue.

Philippine Eagle Center Established

Due to fear of eventual eagle extinction, conservationists founded the Philippine Eagle Foundation in 1969 with some funds from the government. Initially, staff members determined to study the bird’s habitat, reproduction nature and monitor the number of birds living on the islands. The group soon learned that part of the raptor’s problem lay in the breeding habits. A pair of adults spends approximately two years rearing chicks before the youngsters leave the nest. The hatchlings require six or seven years before becoming sexually mature, finding a mate and reproducing.

Equipped with their new found knowledge, the members turned their efforts into increasing the eagle’s numbers. The Davao City sanctuary started receiving donations from many world countries and began with two birds. In addition to studying the birds, the team worked with and trained the raptors. In 1992, the sanctuary stepped in to reduce the time needed to breeds the birds naturally by using artificial insemination. They successfully hatched two chicks. Today, the site cares for 28 Philippine Eagles, and the breeding program is going strong.

The team endeavored to treat ill and injured birds for release back into the wild. However, they soon found that up to half of the birds fell victim to hunters or poachers. Since that time, any captured birds or birds born at the sanctuary remain safely on the 20-acre site. Having to keep the birds in captivity saddens their caretakers.

The location is open to visitors. Guests are welcome to meet with the caretakers, explore the exhibits and venture forth on bird-watching expeditions. But, only a few of the eagles are used for public viewing and interaction. The remainders are carefully kept out of sight for their protection.

With the help of other worldwide conservationists, the sanctuary continues raising funds and public awareness of the plight of the Philippine Eagle. Efforts have gained the attention and influenced cinematographers. Filmmaker Mikhail Red created a film called “Birdshot.” The Cornell Lab of Ornithology also created a film known as “Bird of Prey.” Each August, Davao City residents celebrate Kadayawan. The week-long festivities include commemorating the Philippine Eagle via elaborate costumes, floats, and other depictions. The festival also does much to improve public awareness of the raptor.

Philippine Eagle

The Philippine Eagle is considered the largest in overall length. Females measure 3.36 feet (102 centimeters) in length and weigh approximately 15.5 pounds (7 kilograms). Males are slightly smaller and measure 3 feet (91 centimeters) in length and weigh around 11 pounds (5 kilograms). The birds have a wingspan of up to 6.6 feet (2 meters).

The nape of the bird’s necks has long brown and cream-colored feathers that merge to create a shaggy crest down the back of their heads. The crown of feathers makes the raptor closely resemble the fantasy creature known as the Griffin. The face and arched beak are black, which contrasts with their steel gray-blue eyes. Dark brown feathers flow down their backs. However, the feathers along their bellies, under the wings and down the legs are white. The eagle’s powerful legs boast long, sharp black talons.

The raptors communicate with each other using high-pitched whistle-like sounds. Despite their overall massive size, the Philippine Eagle is known for its agile flight and quick movements that are often only seen in smaller birds.

Eagles need to be protected and avoid extension. All of us can contribute to make it possible. If you want to help, please contact us for more information. You also have the possibility of donating through our website. Let’s help all endangered species together.