Show Details

Harpy Eagles

April 3, 2014

Satellites and unmanned aircraft could help shed light on the lives of one of the world’s most elusive eagles.



Keeping up with harpy eagles. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Harpy Eagle in Flight. (mdf/Wikipedia)

Harpy Eagle in Flight. (mdf/Wikipedia)


The tops of tropical ceiba trees are so big, they can be seen from space. Only a tree this huge can support the nests of the harpy eagle, one of the world’s largest raptors. But little is known about the family lives of these endangered South American birds because it’s so hard to spot their nests from the ground. Wildlife biologist Mike Wallace of the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research thinks unmanned aircraft could solve the problem.

MIKE WALLACE (San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research):

If we can see those trees from space, we can program the computer to look for all of these big trees, and get GPS positions for them.


Then, drones could fly to those locations, determine whether the trees contain nests, and take pictures. Wallace wants to compare the lives of harpy eagles in pristine rainforests to those in more disturbed habitats. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.