Q. Dear Twig: Is there really something called a monkey-eating eagle?
A. Yes. No. And there's more than one kind. But none of them go by that name anymore. (Huh? It's cold and my head hurts.)
See, there used to be a bird called the monkey-eating eagle. People thought it ate monkeys, monkeys, nothing but monkeys. But then scientists learned it eats more than that: It eats big snakes, big birds (but not the famous one) and other big non-monkeys, too. So scientists gave it a new name: Philippine eagle. Reason: It lives in the Philippines.
Eagles that eat monkeys live in other places also. Africa has the martial eagle and crowned hawk-eagle; South America, the harpy eagle and crowned solitary eagle. Writer William Stolzenburg calls the harpy eagle "an eleven-pound monkey-seeking missile … with the talons of a tiger." So duck if you're a monkey.
North America? Alas, no monkey-eating eagles. Nor monkeys for an eagle to eat.
P.S. Another name for the Philippine eagle: "Haribon." It means "bird king."
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources lists the Philippine eagle as critically endangered. Fewer than 500 Philippine eagles still exist. Reason: Mainly, people keep cutting down the forests the eagles live in.
William Stolzenburg wrote a book called Where the Wild Things Were. It came out last year. It talks about top-of-the-food-web predators, the good they do in ecosystems, and the bad things that can happen if, for example, we wipe them out. It's written at an adult reading level but is written really, really well ("Monkey-seeking missile"? Exxxcellent ...), so if you don't read at an adult level yet but are interested, check it out anyway, see how it goes.
"Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick" is a weekly feature for children (ages 9+; 4th grade reading level) about science, nature, farming and the environment. Online at http://extension.osu.edu/~news/archive.php?series=science.
Brought to you by your scientific friends at The Ohio State University — specifically, at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) (http://www.oardc.ohio-state.edu) and with Ohio State University Extension (http://extension.osu.edu). OARDC and OSU Extension are the research and outreach arms, respectively, of Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.
Written by Kurt Knebusch of OARDC and OSU Extension. For details, to ask Twig a question, and/or to receive the column free by mail or e-mail, contact Kurt at CommTech, 1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691; firstname.lastname@example.org; (330) 263-3776.