A Majestic Bird With a (Formerly) Beastly Name

by John Kennedy Mayer on May 24th, 2011

monkey eatingThe Philippine Eagle, the Haring Ibon (“Bird King”), is one of nature’s great accomplishments and wonders – a regal raptor of magnificent stature, a king among birds and the wild. Approaching four feet in height and six feet in span, this evolutionary wonder inspires awe and is rightly the national symbol of its habitat, the Philippines. A formidable predator, this bird can hunt and kill monkeys, and so came the early moniker of “monkey-eater.” Far be it for us to inject judgment, yet the notion of a monkey-eating bird was not palatable to many. In 1978, the Philippine government officially re-named the bird the Philippine Eagle, and in 1995 President Fidel Ramos enshrined it as the national symbol.

Eagle, Shem Longakit

Photo by Shem Longakit

No one imagines monkey-eating to be pleasant, least of all the monkey. But neither is grub-eating pleasant to the grub. Nature must be had and understood in all its manifestations as a glory beyond us, one we must respect and know and nurture. The Bird King fulfills its part unapologetically and according to well-laid evolutionary plans – but do we? It is spastic, but understandable, that humans should focus on the monkey-eating of this bird, even though this feeding opportunity represents but a tiny fraction of its diet. It is also understandable that the notion should be excised from the bird’s name in hopes of providing the public a larger understanding of its nature and behaviors. The bird should be known as the Philippine Eagle, in honor of the land it graces with its presence. It is not understandable that this great bird should be imperiled for its very existence. The efforts of the Philippine government to protect this bird are right and admirable. We at Jeepney Projects Worldwide seek to supplement the efforts of the Philippine Eagle Foundation through our Art for Conservation.

Please help by donating directly to the Philippine Eagle Foundation, or by purchasing David Tomb’s art which benefits preservation efforts, or in any way you see fit. If we lose such a magnificent bird, we will surely lose a part of ourselves, our world, and most probably much more. It’s not too late! Save this Bird King!