Japanese Mountain Hawk-Eagle
Scientific Name: Spizaetus nipalensis orientali
Its Japanese name is kumataka; “kuma” means bear, which refers to the bird’s relatively large size and strength.
The mountain hawk-eagle is a fearsome hunter and uses the element of surprise to its advantage. It perches in the forest, waiting to spot an unassuming meal, and makes a short, fast swoop to capture its prey on the ground. These forest eagles have short wings built for flying through the forest.
STATUS: Mountain hawk-eagles are listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). While they are not considered an internationally threatened species, the Japanese subspecies of mountain hawk-eagle is considered vulnerable in Japan. Loss of habitat due to the building of dams and changes in the forest due to logging are credited with the decline in population.
HABITAT: The Japanese subspecies of the mountain hawk-eagle inhabits the coniferous forests of Japan at elevations typically above 3,000 feet. While Japanese mountain hawk-eagles can hunt in a variety of terrains, including young artificial, or planted forest and grasslands, they hunt and nest in Japanese red pine, fir and broad-leafed forest.
DIET: Japanese mountain hawk-eagles feed on small mammals, birds, and reptiles and need a firm and open forest floor to grasp and hold prey animals. Common prey includes squirrel, fox, hare, pheasant, and snake. In northern Japan, there have been reports of kumataka predation on snow monkeys (Macaca fuscata).
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: This hawk-eagle ranges from 27 to 31 inches in length, with brown to black plumage, a black beak, brownish gold talons, and sharp yellow eyes. When in flight, it is possible to see the light and dark barred pattern on the underside of the flight feathers and tail. The Japanese subspecies is larger than the other two subspecies, generally lighter in color, and has a small crest, which is prominent in other mountain hawk-eagles.
A Big Nursery
As a large raptor, Japanese mountain hawk-eagles have to find huge trees in the deep forest to support their giant nests. These chick nurseries have been known to have diameters of up to 60 inches, thicknesses of up to 23 inches, and take up to one month to build! The nest is made of sticks and cushioned with leaves, which the adult presses against its chest to make firm and form a sort of ‘egg seat.’ Parent mountain hawk-eagles often use two nests: one for raising their chick and one to use as a roost and a feeding post.