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散文佳作108篇 第78期:Killer on Wings Is Under Threat 飞翔的杀手正受到威胁




Killer on Wings Is Under Threat


Could anything be more majestic, serene or threatening than the largest bird of prey in theworld, the harpy eagle, soaring above its domain? Weighing nine kilograms and with a 2.2-metre wingspan, this giant of the .sky glides at 65 kilometres per hour over dense Brazilianrainforest. Its cruel head with flaring coloured crest and huge hooked beak twists constantlyfrom side to side.


It spots a monkey in a treetop 2.5 kilometres away and zeroes in on its prey. The monkeymunches on, oblirious to the threat. Then the eagle strikes,plucking its prey from its perchwith talons bome on legs the thickness of your wrists. The monkey dies instantly, pierced bythe talons. The eagle carries the body back to its treetop lair. The famed and feared harpyeagle has killed again.


Whether this frightening creature does indeed soar like other eagles in search of prey is opento conjecture . Forless is known about the harpy than any other eagle-the remoteness of itshabitat sees to that. But it has been seen carrying monkeys, sloth and even small deer back toits nest.


This eagle's extraordinary eyesight is one of its greatest assets. Like many other eagles, it cansee between four and eight times as much detail as canhumans. The result is an ability to seeclearly a smaU monkey at a distance of up to 2.5 kilometres and to judge distances withpinpoint accuracy . The latter is an obvious requirement if prey is to be snatched at speed.


It's hard to believe that a creature so well equipped to survive could- ever find itself underthreat. But with huge tracts of rainforest being felled in Centraland South America, the harpy'sfood sources are harder to find.


The threat posed could soon be similar to that facing the harpy's near relative, the Philippinesmonkey-eating eagle. This acutely threatened bird was reduced in numbers to fewer than 100in the wild by the loss of its forest habitat and by the heavy demands of trophy hunters in thePhilippines.


Like its Filipino cousm, the harpy eagle nests in the tops of the largest forest trees. It thereforeneeds an intact forest to breed. The seemingly invinable harpy is vulnerable for anotherreason. A mating pair is thought to produce only one eaglet every two years. Harpy eggs takeup to 60 days to hatch and chicks take a further 60 days before they learn to fly. What ismore, the youngster is fed by the parents for many months after it has learned to fly. Annualbreeding then is impossible.


Folklore has long held that the harpy eagle preys on human babies as well as forest animals. Tothe ancient Mayans of CentralAmerica the bird was Moan,a bird of ill omen and death. The harpyfrom which the eagle derives its name was a mythical wreaker of vengeance. Yet there is noevidence, according to British naturalist Leslie Brown, that children have ever been taken bythe harpy.

民间传说里,一直认为热带大雕既捕食森林动物,也捕食婴儿。对中美洲的古代玛雅人来说,热带大雕就是Moan,一种带来不祥和死亡的鸟。鹰的名字来自哈比( Harpy),神话中的一个复仇者。然而,按照英国博物学家莱斯利·布朗的说法,还没有证据表明大雕曾经掠走过小孩。

But the Anglia Television Company fflm crew from England that compiled a televisiondocumentary titled Fury of the Forest can vouch for the harpy's ferociousness when its nest isthreatened. One camera team was attacked when filming a pair of harpys mating and nesting.


The harpy eagle does not face the same immediate threat as its Filipino cousin. But if thedestruction of its forest habitat continues at its present rate, the largest of avian predators,too, could join those birds already on the endangered species list. Leslie Brown wrote in 1976that nearly half of the 59 species of eagle were under threat. Those who appreciate naturewill be hoping that the harpy can surmount this threat, to soar on over the forests of SouthAmerica.

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