The harpy eagle is a large crested gray and white eagle that nests at the top of emergent rain forest trees. From there, it surveys the forested domain below, plotting forays into the canopy. When hunting, it deftly maneuvers amongst the branches and - on the wing - snatches up monkeys, sloths, opossums, smaller birds and other tree-dwelling animals with its massive talons. While other eagles have larger wingspans, none can match the sheer power of the harpy. For some rain forest people, who refer to it as 'The Spirit Protector,' it is the embodiment of power - physical and spiritual. Yet, the harpy is an endangered species, largely because many of the wide tracts of uninterrupted forest which it needs for survival have been interrupted - by humans.
These days harpies are rarely seen and very difficult for ornithologists to study in the wild - which only adds to their mystique. Yet, amazingly, some rain forest peoples are familiar enough with this bird to capture it and keep it as sort of a regal pet - the resident protector.
In The Song of the Harpy Eagle, the harpy eagle takes on the role assigned her by the rain forest peoples: she is 'The Forest Protector.' But since she can't protect the forest alone, she challenges the students of Mr. Figinblossom (and your students) to journey to the rain forest, ascend the emergent kapok tree and learn 'The Secret of the Forest Protector.' Along the way, the adventuresome students encounter a host of rain forest animals which impart 'the wisdom of the wild' through their songs.