The Realm of the Eagles: Darién

The extensive, protected lowland rainforests of Darién in eastern Panama are home to two of the world’s most powerful eagles: the Harpy Eagle and the Crested Eagle. As of March 2020 we have active nest sites of both of these rare forest raptors near the Canopy Camp. We expect to be able to visit these nests and enjoy great views for the next several months. This is indeed an extraordinary opportunity.

Panama’s National Bird: The Harpy Eagle

Darién is a stronghold for Harpy Eagles (Harpia harpyja) and other large forest raptors, and holds Central America’s largest population of this rare and majestic bird. Like the jaguar, the Harpy Eagle is an apex predator. It takes monkeys, sloths and other rainforest mammals with ease out of the treetops with its robust feet and sharp talons which rival the length of grizzly bear claws. The Harpy Eagle is one of the largest raptors on earth, but despite its large size, with its 2-meter long wingspan, it can maneuver through the dense rainforest canopy and remain well-hidden. It does not soar, and often perches concealed in canopy foliage. However, with our experienced guides you can have a good chance to see our impressive national bird during a stay at the Canopy Camp.

Harpy Eagle

A Rare Find: The Crested Eagle

In addition to Harpy Eagles, the rainforests of eastern Panama are also home to another large eagle, the Crested Eagle (Morphnus guianensis). Similar in appearance to the Harpy Eagle, this forest raptor is slightly smaller and less heavily built than its larger, more robust cousin. It has only one crest and light barring on its belly and legs. Unlike the Harpy Eagle, the Crested Eagle has two color morphs: a light morph similar to that of the Harpy Eagle, but lacking the black chest band and with barring below, and a rarer dark morph, almost completely sooty gray with dark barring below. Crested Eagles are even rarer in Panama’s forests than Harpy Eagles are, so encounters and especially nest sites are very exciting.

Crested Eagle Panama

Harpy and Crested Eagle nest visits

In general, if there is a site available to visit, whether a nest site or a fledged juvenile in a reliable location, it will be included in our 7-night Birds of Canopy Camp Darien tour—see the itinerary for more details and for logs of our most recent eagle sightings. We can keep you informed as your trip gets closer. As of March 2020 we have active nests of both Harpy and Crested eagles to visit. Please keep in mind that we can never guarantee the sighting of a Harpy Eagle (or anything in nature), even at a reliable site, but we will be sure to try if there is a chance!

Harpy Eagle Nest February 2019

Scouting Harpy Eagle Nest

The Journey to the Nest

By nature, Harpy and Crested Eagles are shy, elusive birds. They nest in the largest trees in the Darién rainforests—Cuipo, Almendro and Kapok trees—in mature forests with minimal disturbance and usually far from human settlement. Indigenous communities inhabit these remote environments, and are aware of the birds’ presence. A journey to a Harpy Eagle or Crested Eagle nest may require a full day and various methods of transportation, including 4×4 vehicle, river travel in local “piraguas” (motorized dugout canoes), followed by a final hike by foot to the nest. Travel times depend on the nest location and season, but it can involve up to an hour by vehicle, up to 3 hours on the river, and up to 2 hours by foot on a sometimes muddy trails and in the humid rainforest. The end result? A look at one of the world’s most beautiful raptors, nesting in pristine rainforest habitat. Be prepared for an adventure!