email a friend
printable version
Papuan Eagle Harpyopsis novaeguineae
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
Please email us with any relevant information

This  large forest eagle is classified as Vulnerable on the basis of an estimated small population which may be declining through habitat loss, and locally at least, hunting. However, very little is known about its population size or trends and it may yet prove to be more secure than currently thought.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Taxonomic note

75-90 cm. Very large, powerful eagle of forest canopies. Grey-brown upperparts including an erectile occipital ruff, barred wings and tail, pale brown upper breast, shading paler ventrally. Similar spp. In size, it is matched only by the short-tailed White-bellied Sea-eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster and the uniformly very dark brown Gurney's Eagle Aquila gurneyi. In plumage, it is similar to the smaller Long-tailed Buzzard Henicopernis longicauda and Doria's Hawk Megatriorchis doriae but has an unstreaked breast. Voice Repeated, deep, resonating calls and grunts, often at night. Hints Can be heard and occasionally seen in any large forest with limited shotgun hunting.

Distribution and population
Harpyopsis novaeguineae is widely distributed on New Guinea (Papua, formerly Irian Jaya, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea). It occurs at very low population densities and is nowhere common (Coates 1985, J. Diamond in litt. 1987, B. Beehler in litt. 2007). There are no data regarding territory or total population size, but it is significantly less common or extirpated in most densely inhabited regions (Beehler 1985, Coates 1985). There are only three records in four years from the heavily hunted Ok Tedi area (Gregory 1995a), but it has been reported to be relatively common in the Kikori basin where hunting pressure is low (K. D. Bishop in litt. 1999) and widespread (but present in low numbers) in the YUS Conservation Area, even in forests that are hunted (B. Beehler in litt. 2012).

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 2,500-9,999 mature individuals based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size. This is consistent with recorded population density estimates for congeners or close relatives with a similar body size, and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied. This estimate is equivalent to 3,750-14,999 individuals, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend justification
There are no data on population trends; however, the species is thought to be in decline, owing to hunting and habitat loss.

It is most common in undisturbed forest, but has been recorded from forest clearings and gallery forest from sea-level to 3,700 m (Coates 1985, Beehler et al. 1986, I. Burrows in litt. 1999). It feeds mainly on mammals, mostly marsupials and rats, but also pigs and dogs, and sometimes takes birds, lizards and snakes (Coates 1985, Beehler et al. 1992, B. Beehler in litt. 2007). It often hunts on the ground but also takes arboreal prey and extracts animals from tree-cavities (Coates 1985, Beehler et al. 1986). Only one active nest has been examined, containing a single chick, and it is possible that this species breeds less than annually (Coates 1985). The species requires extensive old growth forest and is thought to be fairly intolerant of logged forest, however, there have been reports of the species inhabiting selectively logged forests in the upper Watut of Papua New Guinea (B. Beehler in litt. 2012).

It is hunted in most if not all forests of New Guinea, especially the highlands, for its tail and flight feathers which are used in ceremonial head-dresses. Hunting pressure is most intense close to densely inhabited areas (most people live in mid-montane altitudes). Guns are becoming increasingly available in west Papua, locally increasing hunting pressure (Coates 1985), but gun ownership has dropped significantly in Papua New Guinea (B. Beehler in litt. 2007, 2012) due to a law preventing the killing of birds with non-traditional means (i.e. shotguns). Logging roads also open up previously inaccessible areas to hunting (I. Burrows in litt. 1994). It may also suffer from competition with human hunters for large mammalian prey (A. Mack in litt. 1999).

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. It occurs in several protected areas, such as the Crater Mountain Wildlife Management Area (K. M. Kisokau in litt. 1994). It is fully protected by law in Papua New Guinea, but these laws are rarely enforced. Conservation Actions Proposed
Determine territory size and relate to prey abundance. Locate nests to research basic breeding biology. Research basic ecology of prey-species. Monitor numbers in study sites such as Kikori Integrated Conservation and Development Project area. Investigate hunting levels and possible regulation through discussions with local hunters. Enforce protection in uninhabited reserve areas. Utilise as a flagship species in ecotourism initiatives.

Beehler, B. 1985. Conservation of New Guinea rainforest birds. In: Diamond, A.W.; Lovejoy, T.E. (ed.), Conservation of tropical forest birds, pp. 233-247. International Council for Bird Preservation, Cambridge, U.K.

Beehler, B. M.; Crill, W.; Jefferies, B.; Jefferies, M. 1992. New Guinea Harpy-eagle attempts to capture a monitor lizard. Emu 92: 246-247.

Beehler, B. M.; Pratt, T. K.; Zimmerman, D. A. 1986. Birds of New Guinea. Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Coates, B. J. 1985. The birds of Papua New Guinea, 1: non-passerines. Dove, Alderley, Australia.

Gregory, P. 1995. Further studies of the birds of the Ok Tedi area, Western Province, Papua New Guinea. Muruk 7(1): 1-38.

Further web sources of information
Detailed species accounts from the Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 2001).

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Derhé, M., Dutson, G., Mahood, S., O'Brien, A., Stattersfield, A.

Beehler, B., Bishop, K., Burrows, I., Diamond, J., Kisokau, K., Mack, A., Dutson, G.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Harpyopsis novaeguineae. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - New Guinea harpy eagle (Harpyopsis novaeguineae) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles)
Species name author Salvadori, 1875
Population size 2500-9999 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 734,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species