Supporting Raptor Research in Colombia

Crested Eagle. Victor Castanho photo. Macaulay Library.
Colombia, Map source Wikipedia.

In 2023, Coastal Raptors provided funding for purchasing five camera traps to monitor large raptor nesting in Colombia. We made the donation to support the work of Proyecto Grandes Rapaces de Colombia (Large Raptors of Colombia), a private company with research and education programs for the Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja), Ornate Hawk-Eagle (Spizaetus ornatus), King Vulture (Sarcoramphus papa) and Crested Eagle (Morphnus guianensis). Director Mateo Giraldo and his team of citizen scientists use photos and videos from camera traps placed high in the rain forest tree canopy to document nesting success and diet and for public education and outreach. 

Mateo Giraldo

Since 2021, Large Raptors of Columbia has been monitoring the first known nesting of Crested Eagles in Columbia. This rarest of  nests in the country was found by Diego Andres Polo Martinez, a 14-year old member of the local community at the time of his discovery.

Adult Crested Eagle at the nest site monitored by Large Raptors of Colombia.
Diego Andres Polo Martinez.

In 2023, the Crested Eagle pair moved to a new location for nesting. The new nest was discovered by Diego’s grandfather, Ladislao Polo Casillo. In an email to me, Mateo wrote we call him Don Polo affectionately. The entire family loves the eagles.

The eagle pair hatched one egg on April 1. Mateo wrote the chick named Millo started growing rapidly,. Its parents fed it mainly with snakes and marsupials, but also with birds. To have a better observation point, we built a platform at 25 meters away from the next tree…Millo started flying at 4 months old, and we decided to install a trap camera donated Coastal Raptors on the platform as we already had a feeling that we wouldn’t be the only ones using it.

In this short video Mateo talks in Spanish about the purpose of the platform, points toward the Crested Eagle nest tree, and points to the camera trap which is lashed to tree at the platform. He also thanks Coastal Raptors for the donation which enabled the purchase of camera trap for use at this location and others.
Here we see Millo, the recently fledged Crested Eagle, at 4 month old. This video combines two 10-second videos into one. The first was taken on September 8, the second three days later.

Harpy Cinema

Educational outreach is a critical part of the conservation efforts of Large Raptors of Colombia. This is accomplished in large part through Harpy Cinema, a program where nature photos, videos, films and documentaries – especially about Harpy Eagles – are taken to rural communities (sample video below).

Adult female Harpy Eagle standing on a branch of its nest tree in the Colombian rain forest. This video was taken by a camera trap secured high in the canopy by “Grandes Rapaces de Colombia” (“Large Raptors of Colombia”).

In rural communities, raptors are often shot because they sometimes prey on chickens and other domestic animals which are important to them for food. Through their education programs, Large Raptors of Colombia relays the message that raptors in their forests are not harmful and instead are essential for maintaining ecosystem balance. To date, Large Raptors has reached over 500 people in five municipalities with their outreach program.

Female Harpy Eagle shot at Colombia’s Botanical Garden of the Pacific, 2016. Since monitoring and education programs began 2020, another eagle pair has adopted the nest and have fledged young.
Harpy Cinema in action.

To achieve its goals, Mateo has worked in collaboration with Luis Felipe Barrera (Fundacion Alianza Natural) and David L. Anderson (Canopy Watch International).

Mateo wrote, David has been a strategic ally in our project. I met him through Felipe from Alianza Natural. David was my tree climbing instructor. I met him in 2021 in discovering the canopy course. Then David started helping us with managing funds to visit the nesting areas and he has also helped us get camera traps for monitoring. He has been an excellent ally.

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