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The Black Eagle(Pithecophaga jefferyi)
The Black Eagle is the national bird of the Philippines, hence it’s official name, the Philippine Eagle. It’s primary habitat is dipterocrap forest and it is only found on the islands of Luzon, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao in the Philippines. The number of birds remaining is largely unknown, with an estimated 50 pairs in Luzon. However, some areas have not yet been surveyed and despite its large size, the species is a rare sight indeed.It has an average height of 100 cm and a wingspan of 200 cm. It weighs on average 6-7kg and lives from 30-60 years. It is one of the few great predators of the forest, and is sometimes referred to as the Monkey-eater because of its habit of feeding on a wide variety of forest species. Although there are documented cases of dogs, lemurs, squirrels and monkeys being carried off by the bird, no documentation exists on the taking of domestic livestock (although accounts have reached legendary proportions). It is famous for its large wingspan and long beak. Although its typical colours are brown feathers and white crest, there are others which are completely black (hence black eagle), black and red, or black and white.It’s favourite nesting sites are dominant forest trees on mountain slopes and it prefers to nest on ferns. It lays one egg, rearing one offspring every two years. A pair of Eagles have a predatory territory of 60 to 100 square kilometres.Although it is a national symbol (effective 04 July 1995 by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No.615) it has suffered severe decline in the last few decades. The main reasons for decline are mainly forest clearance, hunting and trapping. The Eagle is apparently still hunted for food by certain villages , but due to its rarity it is always a prize catch. It is so rare in fact that first documentation of the eagle is in 1896.Clearance of forests has also led to the destruction of the eagle’s food source. The forests which support the eagle are in severe decline, and at the present rate of forest clearance, in several years the eagle will have no viable habitat.Nevertheless, conservation projects are in action. The eagle is fully protected by law, and capture for zoos is strictly regulated. The United States and Europe funds the majority of the conservation projects, and the Philippine Eagle Conservation project (PECP), based in Mindanao runs several breeding programs for the birds in captivity. Local people are also paid for reporting sightings of nests and eggs to aid the conservation of the species.The Fate of the Philippine Eagle is a reminder about the state of its habitat.