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Endangered Species Research

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ESR 29:69-79 (2015)  -  DOI:

Conservation implications of harpy eagle Harpia harpyja predation patterns

Everton B. P. Miranda*

Programa de Pós-graduação em Ecologia e Conservação da Biodiversidade, Universidade Federal do Mato Grosso, Av. Fernando Corrêa da Costa, no. 2367 - Bairro Boa Esperança, Cuiabá - MT, CEP 78060-900, Brazil
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Knowledge of the food habits of threatened taxa is key for their effective conservation, especially in top predators where prey species are frequently also hunted by humans. The harpy eagle Harpia harpyja is the largest living eagle, and is considered Near Threatened by the IUCN. Its main threats are persecution by humans and habitat loss. Predation patterns of this species have been the subject of several descriptive studies, each reflecting the idiosyncrasies of the study area. Systematizing these data permits a transition from descriptive treatments of harpy food habits to a predictive focus, based on defensive prey strategies and foraging theory. This generates information that can enhance management and conservation decisions. Literature data were summarized and standardized, allowing comparison between studies. Results indicate that harpy eagles feed mainly on sloths and other prey with passive antipredator strategies, with sloths accounting for 50% of prey items and biomass consumed. Large monkeys such as howlers (Alouatta spp.) and capuchins (Sapajus and Cebus spp.) are the next most important prey, but combined, primates form only ~20% of the consumed prey biomass. Predation seldom occurs on animals weighing  more than 5 kg. This is positive from a conservation point of view, since sloths are not game species, precluding competition between harpy eagles and subsistence hunting. 

KEY WORDS: Raptor · Bradypus · Choloepus · Alouatta · Prey defenses · Top predator · Diet

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Cite this article as: Miranda EBP (2015) Conservation implications of harpy eagle Harpia harpyja predation patterns. Endang Species Res 29:69-79.

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