Saturday, August 17, 2013

Two new Harpy Eagle nests found in Belize

If I could have found the link for this online, I would have just shared it on my Facebook page- but I searched the AmandalaBelize website and I'm not seeing it anywhere. 

"Scientists and local community members recently discovered two new Harpy Eagle nests in the Maya Mountains of southern Belize. The new nests in Belize are approximately 15km from one another; the first, located in the Columbia River Forest Reserve, was discovered by a resident of a nearby village in July 2012.

A female Harpy Eagle was observed interacting with the nest by the Belize Foundation for Research and Environmental Education (BFREE) avian technicians over the following weeks; however, no juvenile was sighted.

The second nest was discovered in January 2013 by BFREE avian technicians William Garcia, Liberato Pop, and Marlyn Cruz, during bird monitoring surveys in the Bladen Nature Reserve. This nest and it's residents- both adult parents and their juvenile- were monitored on a monthly basis, and in May 2013, the healthy juvenile fledged.

'These nests may be the most significant biological discoveries for Belize in recent years,' states Jacob Marlin, executive director for BFREE. 
The presence of the nests suggests that a healthy breeding population of Harpy eagles exists in this remote area. The magnificent raptors were thought to be locally extinct in Belize since 2000 and extirpated from Mexico and most of Central America until 2005 when a team from BFREE sighted a juvenile Harpy while on an expedition in the Bladen Nature Reserve.

Harpy Eagles (harpia harpyja) are designated as "near threatened" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and are considered "critically endangered" in Belize.

The initial sighting in 2005 led to a collaborative program begun by Marlin and Dr. Jamie Rotenburg, ornithologist and Associate Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. The program, entitled An Integrated community-based Harpy Eagle and Avian Conservation Program for the Maya Mountain Massif, was created to monitor the species, find nests, and study the entire bird community. Central to this initiative is the training of local people from nearby buffer-zone villages to monitor the birds and collect scientific data as part of an innovative alternative livelihood-strengthening program.

The resulting team of Avian Technicians conducts the majority of the research; five of whom were responsible for locating both the first-ever recorded Harpy Eagle nest in Belize in November 2010 (as documented in The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, 2012) and one of the two recently discovered nests in January 2013.

Harpy Eagles are well known as one of the most powerful eagles in the Americas, hunting prey as large as monkeys and sloths for food. They can weigh up to 20 pounds and have a 7-foot wingspan, making them a formidable predator.
However, due to deforestation and hunting, Harpy Eagles are typically missing from most of Central America's rainforests where they once freely ranged. In November 2012, another Harpy Eagle nest was discovered in Patuca National Park in Honduras, south of Belize.

'These new nest discoveries in Belize and Honduras are significant because only a handful of individual Harpy eagle sightings were made in Central America north of Panama over the last decade,' said Rotenburg. 'It means that Harpy eagles are hanging on in these remote protected parks and reserves, and they may not be as isolated as we once thought.'"

You can check out one of my older blog posts, "The Belize Zoo, Part 2," to see a picture of the big, pretty Harpy that they take care of:

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