African Crowned Eagle vs. Harpy Eagle: How Do They Measure Up?

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The only two eagles found in North America are the bald eagle and the golden eagle. But there are more than 60 eagle species worldwide, and learning more about those species can be fascinating for those interested in birds.

Eagles are not a natural group but rather a term used for many large birds of prey in the Accipitridae family. The term refers to any bird of prey large enough to hunt sizeable vertebrates 50 centimeters or more in length.

Most of the 60 eagle species are found in Eurasia and Africa. Just 14 are on other continents, including the two in North America, nine in Central and South America, and three in Australia.

What is the African Crowned Eagle?

The African crowned eagle, Stephanoaetus coronatus, is the only extant member of its genus. It is found in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Africa and is restricted to the eastern areas. It lives in riparian woodlands and diverse forests, where it preys mainly on mammals.

African Crowned Eagle

Due to their ecological similarities, this species of eagle is considered to be the African counterpart of the harpy eagle.

The adult crowned eagle has a dark to the red-tinged crown with a raised black-tipped crest. The upper parts of the adult birds are a blackish brown-grey color, with a varying tinge of blue. Underneath, the belly and breast are white with blackish bars and blotches and variable cream or rich reddish-buff coloration, and the throat is brown.

Their primary wing feathers are white at the base, broadly tipped with black and crossed by two black bars, and brown with speckles underneath. Their tails are black with brownish-grey bands.

What is the Harpy Eagle?

The harpy eagle, Harpia harpyja, lives in the emergent layer of rainforests, from Mexico through Central America and into South America as far south as Argentina. Sadly, it is now rare throughout its range and has almost become extinct in some parts due to habitat loss.

Within the rainforest, they hunt in the canopy or on the ground and perch on emergent trees, looking for prey. Again, the game is mainly mammalian, often sloths and monkey species.

Harpy Eagle

The upper side of the harpy eagle is covered with slate-black feathers, and the underside is primarily white, except for the feathered tarsi, which are striped in black. This bird’s white belly and gray double-crested head are separated by a broad black band across the upper breast. The upper side of the tail is black with three gray bands, while the underside of it is black with three white bands.

Which eagle is the largest?

The Harpy eagle is the second largest eagle in the world in total length (98.5 centimeters or 39 inches). And it is also the third largest eagle in the world by body mass, weighing 5.95 kilograms (13 pounds).

The African crowned eagle is the fifth largest eagle in the world by total length (87.5 centimeters or 34 inches).

By total length, the largest eagle in the world is the Philippine eagle, which is 100 centimeters or 39 inches long. After the harpy eagle but before the crowned eagle, the wedge-tailed eagle and Steller’s sea eagle are the others in the top five.

By body mass, Steller’s Sea Eagle (6.7 kilograms or 14.75 pounds) and the Philippine eagle are heavier than the harpy eagle. While below the harpy eagle, the white-tailed eagle and the martial eagle are also in the top five.

The crowned eagle is, by median weight, lighter than these top five, weighing in at around 3.2–4.7 kilograms (7.1–10.4 pounds) for females and 2.55–4.12 kilograms (5.6–9.1 pounds) for males. Overall, they are the ninth heaviest living eagle species.

Neither the African crowned eagle nor the harpy eagle are among the top five largest eagles measured by wingspan. The top five are the white-tailed eagle (218.5 centimeters or 86 inches), Steller’s sea eagle, the wedge-tailed eagle, the golden eagle, and the martial eagle.

The harpy eagle has a wingspan of 176 to 224 centimeters (69 to 88 inches). And the African crowned eagle has a smaller wingspan of 1.51 to 1.81 meters (59 to 71 inches), though one adult female was recorded with a wingspan of 1.9 meters.

Which eagle is the most powerful?

Harpy eagles possess the largest talons of any living eagle and have been recorded lifting prey weighing their own body weight. They are said to be able to exert more than 530 pounds of pressure with their powerful grip.

The Crowned eagles’ powerful talons are around the same size as the largest golden eagles and close to those of a mid-sized harpy eagle. They can lift heavier prey animals such as rock hyraxes which typically weigh 4–5 kilograms and have been known to take larger prey up to six times their weight.

The crowned eagle is often described as the most powerful raptor in Africa. Though the other African species–the martial eagle and Verreaux eagle–are slightly heavier, the African crowned eagle is said to be more powerful.

No known pressure tests have been conducted on any African raptor, so it is difficult to determine which eagle can exert the most pressure and which is strongest.

However, the harpy and crowned eagle are often listed among the strongest eagles and even among the most powerful creatures on earth.

Golden eagles are also among the most powerful birds and can exert 750 pounds of crushing power per square inch.

Which eagle is fastest?

The golden eagle is the fastest eagle in the world. It can reach a staggering maximum flight speed of 190 mph.

Martial eagles can fly at up to 143 mph, and Steller’s sea eagles can reach 140 mph.

African crowned eagles can reach an incredible 100 mph and are the fourth fastest eagle species.

Harpy eagles can reach 50 mph – still impressive, though not quite as amazingly fast as the rest.

What is the smartest eagle?

Measuring intelligence in non-human animals is always a complex and challenging business. It can be difficult to determine what intelligence really means, let alone which birds are the smartest.

While we tend to call someone ‘ bird-brained’ as an insult to their intelligence, birds can actually have relatively large brains compared to their skull and remarkably high levels of intelligence.

Corvids (ravens, crows, jays, magpies, etc.) and psittacines (parrots, macaws, and cockatoos) are often considered the most intelligent birds and among the most intelligent animals in general. Pigeons, finches, domestic fowl, and birds of prey have also been common subjects of intelligence studies.

In 2016, an international group of neuroscientists published study results that showed that birds pack twice as many neurons per unit of mass into their brains as monkeys and apes do. And the more we learn about eagles and other birds, the more intelligent we find them.

Raptors, including eagles, are not known to be among the world’s most intelligent birds, but all have relatively high intelligence levels. Eagles are commonly believed to be right up there regarding intelligence in birds of prey.

Though perhaps we don’t yet know enough to determine which particular eagle is the ‘smartest,’ we are learning more and more about how intelligent eagles and other birds are in various ways.

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Elizabeth Waddington

Elizabeth Waddington is a conservation, rewilding, organic gardening and sustainability specialist who loves everything nature-related. She loves helping others around the world connect with the wildlife and wonders around them. When not creating wildlife-wise, eco-friendly designs, or writing about the topics that inspire her, she loves spending time watching the birds on and around her own rural property, or heading out on camping or hiking adventures to spot birds and other wildlife in a range of habitats.