Rare harpy eagles -- 'unicorn' of the Amazon rainforest -- caught on camera

A team of nature photographers recently hit the wildlife jackpot: the group spotted one of the rarest winged creatures in the Amazon rainforest.

"Its so rare, it's like seeing a unicorn," Jeff Cremer of Perunature said in a press release.

Cremer and two other wildlife photographers of TropicalHerping were lucky enough to get up close and personal with the pair of birds and their chick during a hike this month.


"Birders spend their whole lives just to catch a glimpse of the harpy eagle," said Cremer. "What makes [this] especially rare is the fact that a pair of harpy eagles nest just once every two or even three years. I've seen jaguars, tapirs and puma and have even been the first person to film new species, but seeing the harpy eagle feed and interact with its chick was really amazing."

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Harpy eagles are at the top of the food chain in the Amazon sky. The massive birds have a wingspan of 6 to 7 feet and the height of an average 5-year-old when sitting. The birds of prey have massive talons the size of a grizzly bear's claws and a beak powerful enough to easily dismember monkeys and sloths.

"In my country, Ecuador, there is an Amazonian tribe called the Huaorani," photographer Lucas Bustamante explained. "They believe that they are descendants of the jaguar and the harpy eagle. They worship these two animals as their gods and view them as being very important to the jungle. After being face to face with a harpy eagle, it is easy to see why they believe that. Finding myself in the jungle with that mythological creature was like being in front of a legendary griffin."

Two weeks ago, the team set out at around 4:30 a.m. and hiked through the jungle to arrive at the tree with the nest. They prepared for the climb up and discovered a harpy eagle chick nestled in a 4-by-5 foot nest.

After observing the patient chick, who was waiting for its next meal, the team watched as the chick's mother swooped in with a dead sloth in her talons. She later came back with a fully grown Brazilian porcupine for her chick.

"The pair of harpy eagles feeding their young in the nest made this trip a dream come true!” the third photographer, Jaime Culebras, said.