Philippine Eagle
(Pithecophaga jefferyi)
The Philippine Eagle is one of the world’s largest, most powerful birds of prey. It was formerly known as the Monkey-eating Eagle, as reports from natives told that the raptor preyed exclusively on monkeys. This was later found to be incorrect as more recent studies have revealed the species to prey on a variety of animals ranging from rodents and bats to pigs and monitor lizards. Endemic to the Philippines, the eagle’s small, rapidly declining population has been feared close to extinction for the past 40 years. In light of this, it recently acquired the status of the National Bird of the Philippines, which has helped greatly to increase awareness of the bird and its plight.
Urgent Conservation Actions
Further research into distribution, population size, ecological requirements and threats. Extension of the protected-areas system to encompass all the remaining habitats. Campaigns to increase national awareness.
The islands of Leyte, Luzon, Mindanao and Samar in the Philippines.
The Philippine Eagle is the largest living eagle in the world in terms of length.
Associated Blog Posts
22nd Jul 15
Welcome to Life on the EDGE, our monthly blog featuring news about our projects, fellows, species, and all other things EDGE.  This is our first update ...  Read

3rd Jun 15
From Luzon to Mindanao the Philippine Eagle will be highlighted by various NGOs and conservation efforts from June 4-10 for Philippine Eagle Week.  Whic...  Read

3rd Mar 15
Whenever someone asks me what I do for a living, I always respond by showing them a picture of a raptor and then go on explaining what my organizatio...  Read

4th Aug 14
As a fish biologist by training, I am more familiar with scales than feathers, so am slightly daunted by running a workshop for the leading bird scientists a...  Read

Media from ARKive
ARKive image - Philippine eagle
ARKive video - Philippine eagle - overview
ARKive video - Philippine eagle at nest, incubating egg and brooding chick
ARKive image - Philippine eagle, head detail
ARKive image - Close up of a captive Philippine eagle
ARKive video - Adult Philippine eagle bringing food to chick, feeds chick at nest
ARKive image - Philippine eagle portrait
ARKive video - Adult Philippine eagle feeding chick in nest
ARKive video - Fledgling Philippine eagle at nest with adult, exercising wings
ARKive image - Philippine eagle, dorsal view, captive
ARKive video - Philippine eagle calling, pair at nest feeding chick, calling
ARKive image - Philippine eagle in habitat
ARKive image - Philippine eagle in tree
ARKive video - Philippine eagle flying through forest habitat
ARKive video - Philippine eagle hunting and catching flying lemur
ARKive image - Philippine eagle on branch
ARKive image - Philippine eagle in flight
ARKive video - Philippine eagle in soaring flight
ARKive video - Philippine eagle in rain
ARKive image - Philippine eagle at nest
Evolutionary Distinctiveness
Order: Falconiformes (or Accipitriformes)
Family: Accipitridae
The Accipitridae is a diverse avian family, comprising up to 14 subfamilies, 65 genera and 231 species. The Philippine Eagle occupies its own genus Pithecophaga. Initially it was thought, because of similarities in size, behaviour and habitat, that the eagle was closely related to large species like the Harpy Eagle, Crested Eagle and New Guinea Harpy Eagle. However, recent DNA analyses have revealed that the Philippine Eagle is actually much more closely related to smaller snake eagles. The similarities to larger species of eagle are likely to be due to convergent evolution and as such this means the evolutionary history of this bird is highly unique.
The tree below shows the evolutionary relationships between this species and all other birds. The colours of the tree indicate EDGE scores with the red shades indicating the higher priority species; the bright red leaves correspond to the top 100 EDGE bird species. Further information on every species can be found by zooming in to its leaf on the tree.
Weight: 5000-7000g
This eagle is the world’s largest in terms of length. The nape of the bird’s neck is covered in elongated feathers, which form a shaggy, ‘lion-like’ crest, which is cream and brown in colour. Between two large blue eyes, it has a large, deep, hooked bill which is a dark, bluish-grey. The face is also dark whilst the plumage on the front of its neck, chest and legs is cream. The large broad wings are dark brown, as are the tail feathers. The legs are yellowish to grayish white with huge powerful claws. Juveniles look like the adults except the feathers on the upperparts have paler fringes and the legs are more yellowish. The bird produces a loud, high-pitched whistle and juveniles beg with a repeated series of high-pitched cries.
The species was initially given the name of Monkey-eating Eagle as it was thought that it preyed exclusively on primates. However, research shows that its diet is much more varied and depends on the availability of prey on different islands. On the island of Mindanao, where the majority of the population exists, a study of five pairs between 1999 and 2007 found the Philippine flying lemur to be the primary prey species and the one most frequently delivered to the nest, although palm civets and monkeys made up the greatest portion of the species prey in terms of biomass. Flying lemurs do not exist on the island of Luzon, so the eagle must rely on other food sources here. The Asian palm civet is also preyed upon, as are snakes, monitor lizards and other birds of prey, although to a lesser degree. In order to catch such mobile prey amongst the trees, flight is fast and agile.

Philippine Eagles are monogamous and mate for life, unless one of the pair dies, in which case the remaining individual will seek out another mate. The breeding cycle is long, lasting for two years, with the eaglets fledging at four to five months. The male and the female share parental care for a total of 20 months.

The Philippine Eagle inhabits dipterocarp and montane forests that are now confined mostly in steep and rugged mountains.

This species is endemic and found on only four islands in the Philippines: Leyte, Luzon, Mindanao, and Samar. The majority of pairs inhabit Mindanao, with perhaps six pairs on Samar and two on Leyte. Recent surveys have found a sizeable population on Luzon. Its range is estimated at 146,000 square kilometres, although it has been suggested that only 9,220km2 of this is old growth forest – the preferred habitat of the eagle.
Population Estimate
180-500 mature adults
Population Trend
Critically Endangered

Each breeding pair requires a range of 25-50 square miles to feed and rear a chick successfully. The need for such an expanse means that the species is particularly vulnerable to deforestation, which is continuing at an alarming rate in the Philippines. Trees are being cut down for timber and to make way for agriculture, and a large amount of the remaining forest is within mining concessions. The birds are hunted for food and often get caught in traps made for deer and pigs. Although there is little research on the impact of pesticide accumulation, this may prove to be detrimental to the species’ breeding success.  Collisions with power lines have also been an issue for this species.

Conservation Underway

The species is listed in CITES Appendices I and II. Conservation initiatives to save the Philippine Eagle have been going for over forty years. Earlier programmes that included captive breeding and creating awareness about the bird by changing its name from the Monkey-eating Eagle, had little success. During the 1980s, conservation groups struggled with lack of funding, attacks on research camps and local economic disaster. Despite these setbacks, they succeeded in raising awareness about the plight of the eagle.

The Philippines Eagle Foundation (PEF) was established in 1987 and has since been spearheading conservation efforts, with an improved level of research and greater understanding of the socio-economic factors affecting the species. Awareness and respect for the eagle increased when it was named as the national bird of the Philippines. Since 2000, a number of surveys have been carried out on the distribution, nesting density and behaviour of the eagle. Continued success with captive breeding means that initiation of reintroductions is already underway. The small wild populations persist in several protected areas including Northern Sierra Madre National Park on Luzon and Mount Kitanglad and Mount Apo Natural Parks on Mindanao. Legal pressure has also been put into place, with the killing of an eagle now punishable by up to 12 years in jail.


The project aims to gather and establish baseline information on Philippine Eagles of Mt. Mingan, increase local awareness on the importance of conserving the species, and facilitate protection its protection by establishing Critical Habitats with management plans specific for the species and its habitat.

Conservation Proposed
A clear conservation plan which can be easily implemented by governments, local communities and various conservation organisations is needed. Further research into the distribution, population size and genetics, ecological requirements and threats is urgently required. Extension of the protected-areas system to encompass all known eagle nests and habitats is critical, as well as protection of the watershed areas are also required. Habitat management schemes that benefit both the flora and fauna and the local communities is needed. Government and forestry policy should integrate eagle-friendly practices and support awareness campaigns designed to create national pride and respect for the iconic Philippine Eagle.
Associated EDGE Community members

I’m an EDGE fellow working on the conservation of Philippine Eagles in Mt. Mingan, Philippines.

The Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) is the national bird of the Philippines and is locally called the Haring Ibon, which means the "King of Birds"

I'm an EDGE Fellow currently working on the conservation of the species in the Mingan Mountain Range, Luzon Island, Philippines.

Avian Web (2013). Philippine Eagles. Downloaded from www.avianweb.com on 25/01/2013

BirdLife International (2013). Species factsheet: Pithecophaga jefferyi. Downloaded from www.birdlife.org on 25/01/2013.

Bueser, G. L. L., Bueser, K. G., Afan, D. S., Salvador, D. I., Grier, J. W., Kennedy, R.S. & Miranda, H. C. 2003. Distribution and nesting density of the Philippine Eagle Pithecophaga jefferyi on Mindanao Island, Philippines: what do we know after 100 years?

Ibis 145(1): 130–135

Collar, N. J., Crosby, R., & Crosby, M. J. 2001. Threatened Birds of Asia: The BirdLife International Red Data Book Cambridge, U.K. - BirdLife International.

Donald, P.F., Collar N. J., Marsden S. J. and Pain D. J. (2010) Facing Extinction. The World’s rarest birds and the race to save them. T & A.D. Poyser, London.

Ibanez, J. C. 2007, Philippine eagle Pithecophaga jerreryi breeding biology, diet, behavior, nest characteristics and longevity estimate in Mindanao Island, Ateneo de Davao University

Lerner, H.R. & Mindell, D.P. (2005) Phylogeny of eagles, Old World vultures, and other Accipitridae based on nuclear and mitochondrial DNA. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 37:327-346.

Miranda, H. C. 2006. New insights on the population ecology and survival of the Philippine Eagle based on radio-telemetry. Wings without borders: IV North American Ornithological Conference, October 3-7, 2006, Veracruz, Mexico, pp. 225. American Ornithologists' Union, Waco, TX, USA.
Text compiled by Michelle Harrison. Factchecked by Jayson Ibanez.

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