Raising Mabuhay

Today we are fundraising money for the Philippine Eagle cam, a project we are taking on in conjunction with the Philippine Eagle Foundation and Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. The Philippine Eagle is one of the world’s most critically endangered birds. By raising awareness of its plight, we hope to preserve the habitat it needs and end the killing of the birds. We will be sending Neil Rettig and Kike Arnal to the Philippines in February of 2016 to scout locations for a wild cam. If you would like to make a donation via Paypal, please follow this link. Checks can be sent to The Raptor Resource Project, PO ox 16, Decorah IA 52101.

We partnered with the Philippine Eagle Foundation on a camera in their breeding chambers in 2013. This article, about PE Mabuhay, was written during that time. Mabuhay turned two earlier this year.

Mabuhay is a two month-old Philippine Eagle produced at the Philippine Eagle Center near Davao City. He represents the second generation of Philippine Eagles to be produced here: his father, Pag-asa, was the first Philippine eagle ever produced in captivity. Little Mabuhay is number twenty-five. Mabuhay is a Tagalog word that means ‘live’, ‘cheers’ or ‘welcome’.

In the video below, Philippine Eagle Foundation staff are feeding Mabuhay with a puppet that resembles an adult eagle. This will keep Mabuhay from imprinting on his keepers, which would make him non-releasable in the wild. Imprinting occurs during a period of time early in an animal’s life, when it forms attachments and develops a self-identity. The puppet will help assure that Mabuhay imprints on Philippine eagles, not human beings. This is important, since birds imprinted on humans will seek them later in life as sexual and social partners. Properly imprinted, Mabuhay will seek other Philippine eagles.

The Philippine eagle lives in forests on eastern Luzon, Samar, Leyte, and Mindanao. The world’s longest bird of prey, it weighs 10 to 18 pounds and measures 2.8 to 3.3 feet in length. It has a dark face, a large bluish-grey beak, blue-grey eyes, and a distinctive nape of trailing light-brown feathers. Adults have dark brown backs with white underparts.

The Philippine eagle is so large that I thought it would spend most of its flight time soaring. While it does soar, it is also amazingly maneuverable for such a large bird. It twists, turns, and folds its wings as it flies through the forest pursuing bats, deer, lemurs, monkeys, birds, flying foxes, giant cloud rats, and snakes and lizards. While the Philippine eagle would be a formidable hunter no matter where it lived, the lack of large predators in its range makes it the dominant hunter in the Philippine forests.  Unsurprisingly, each breeding pair requires a very large home range to successfully raise a chick. A study on Mindanao Island found the nearest distance between breeding pairs to be about 8.1 miles on average, resulting in a circular plot of 51 square miles.

The Philippine Eagle is critically endangered. Only 180 to 500 are believed to survive in the wild in the Philippines. They are threatened primarily by deforestation through logging and expanding agriculture. The Raptor Resource Project has partnered with the Philippine Eagle Foundation to help them save the Philippine eagle through captive breeding and habitat conservation.

Preserving habitat takes money. Today, on Giving Tuesday, we are asking our supporters to make a donation to the Raptor Resource Project to help set a camera on a wild nest. A few dedicated people worked hard to bring about a widespread effort to bring back the Peregrine falcon and Bald eagle in the United States and Canada, and awareness was a critical part of it. We can do the same in the Philippines for the Philippine eagle.