In a breeding facility of the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) in Malagos, Baguio District, seven Philippine Eagle pairs are starting to show courtship rituals – a big step for the critically endangered species to increase its population.
This recent development gives hope for more eggs this breeding season. Dr. Jayson C. Ibañez, PEF’s director of research and conservation, explained that the breeders saw the eagles were matched through natural pairing and now show signs of courtship rituals.
Dominic Tadena, a senior bird keeper at PEF, explained that natural pairing is done by having the eagles inside an enclosure with a partition screen that allows them to see each other and prevent physical harm.
If pairing is successful, the eagles would be “placed in a larger enclosure to prepare them for breeding. Tadena added that courtship rituals happen when there are no signs of aggression between the raptors, the male gives food to the female, and even builds nests.
“We have seven pairs that are starting to show signs of courtship behavior, breeding behavior. We’re waiting for them to lay an egg. We’re crossing our fingers, we’re hoping that they will lay eggs,” Ibañez told Manila Bulletin.
He added that the eagles kept in a breeding facility in Mindanao lay eggs between September and November, while those located in the forests in Luzon usually start their laying season in December, which they adapted to the impact of typhoons.
Ibañez added that eagles kept in their conservation breeding program breed every year, which increase their chances to produce more eaglets, compared to the eagles in the while that breed only once every two years.
PEF also have artificial insemination breeding program, wherein the keepers act as “human surrogate mate,” and will copulate with the male eagle, collect the semen and store it in a test tube, which will be administered to a female eagle for insemination.
PEF center tries to provide a “natural environment as possible” for their captive-bred eagles, sadly, three of their captive-bred eagles did not survive in the wild.
“What’s working for us is we still have pairs in the wild that we can take care of. Maybe, at a certain point, hindi na natin kailangan ng (we many no longer need) conservation breeding. What’s really promising, we still have several pairs, wild pairs that we can really take care of and then they can keep the population going,” Ibañez added.
He said they monitored 37 Philippine eagle pairs in Mindanao, which is the “strongold of the species.” Ibañez also estimated that at least half of the 400 remaining pairs are also found in Mindanao.
He also calls for the protection of forests as to protect the eagles at the same time, because they “are very loyal to the place where they breed.”
“It’s used across generations. As shown in the film, one of the oldest nesting sites is found in Mt. Apo. It’s been first discovered in 1972 until now we still have a pair. It means, eagles still use them across generations, different pairs as long as it’s intact, as long as it’s healthy, eagles will use it. It’s very important for reproduction. That’s why we are trying to save nesting sites,” Ibañez said.