The mother eagle is back! In 2007 we were ecstatic to discover within Camino Verde's land a nest of the Americas' largest raptor: the harpy eagle (harpia harpyja). With frequent screeches and a few incredible close sightings, we confirmed that the nest was occupied by a mother and an infant male. Ever since the nest was first spotted, we have been the proud protectors of this exquisite species.
After the young eagle matured through adolescence to full size, the nest was abandoned and began to fall to pieces. Before long, only a few sticks were left in the crux of the chihuahuaco (ironwood) tree that had once housed this magnificent avian. We were initially concerned that the departure of the eagle was due to the noise and crash of nearby chainsaw crews harvesting wood from a neighbor's parcel. For almost two years, the remains of the nest sat as a sad reminder of how fragile the Amazon's ecosystems are.
This week our concerns were joyfully discarded when we discovered the nest rebuilt and looking robust once more. A biologist specializing in harpy eagles assured us that the mother had returned right on schedule: harpy eagles tend to revisit the same trees to nest, but ovate only every two or three years. We are grateful to be able to continue to witness the life cycle of one of the rainforest's fiercest predators, an animal that commonly feeds on large mammalian prey like the howler monkey and the sloth.
With the inspiration of the eagle's presence we continue to plant chihuahuaco trees annually. The "iron of the forest" is a true jungle hardwood-- incredibly dense and heavy, and containing so much iron that compasses malfunction in the tree's vicinity. Dypterix odorata (the tree's scientific name) is one of but three species in which the harpy will nest. Along with brazil nut (castaña) and giant kapok (lupuna), chihuahuaco forms a crucial part of the canopy's emergent (highest) layer, often towering thirty feet above the next tallest trees-- an excellent perch for a winged hunter. Unfortunately, chihuahuaco is also the source of beautiful and durable timber and excellent charcoal. Felling of ironwoods has accelerated rapidly in the last five years, threatening vital habitat for Amazonian eagles. Camino Verde's wild forests are home to many of these exceptional forest giants, with more being planted each year in protection of the genetic diversity of the species.
See the chihuahuaco entry in our Trees Database.