The National Bird Breeding Sanctuary: the new love nests for the Philippine eagles

With the land peaking at an altitude of 1,200 meters above sea level, the cool forested area replicates the mighty raptor’s nesting sites. We got a peek of the facility the day before it officially closes to the public.

On Valentine’s Day 2024, the Philippine eagles found its its new “love nest” at the National Bird Breeding Sanctuary (NBBS). Eight eagles in breeding condition were released and settled in its new home. The new bird sanctuary nestles in a 105-hectare Eden Tourism Reservation Area at the foot of Mt. Apo in Davao City. This marked another significant date in the Philippine Eagle Foundation’s (PEF) calendar of historic events. The move also officially marked the facility is a no entry zone for visitors with access limited only to PEF’s animal keepers. 

The facility is a no entry zone to visitors with access limited only to PEF’s animal keepers. 

The  5.2-hectare core facility is fenced in a solid perimeter wall

The new love nest of the Philippine eagles

A tour of the breeding cage at NBBS with Former Deputy Director of the PEF, now Conservation Breeding Consultant Mr. Domingo Tadena 

It was the first set of eagles relocated from the Malagos facility on the evening of February 13th and released past 12AM on February 14 in its new breeding cages in a 13.46-hectare sanctuary. The NBBS holds a core facility of 5.2 hectares fenced in a solid perimeter wall and surrounded with a 100 to 300 meters thick natural forest buffer occupying an area of 8.16 hectares. With the land peaking at an altitude of 1,200 meters above sea level, the cool forested area replicates the mighty raptor’s nesting sites.

February 13, 2024. History made. On a rainy evening, the first batch of natural pair Philippine eagles in breeding condition are transferred to the new National Bird Breeding Sanctuary in Eden, Toril (Photo-PEF) 

February 14, 2024. Philippine Eagle MVP Matatag is released and relaxed in his new home at the NBBS. Seen from the lens of the cameras from the Raptor Resource Project. (Photo-PEF) 

Currently, the PEF has in its custody a total 16 birds in breeding condition. The next phase targets to accomplish another set of aviaries by June 2024 to accommodate the next eight eagles. July is the breeding season of the birds. 

“The Philippine eagle natural pairs are productive. With an environment in optimal condition for breeding, we are looking forward to the birth of more eaglets in the coming days,” said Dr. Jayson Ybañez, PEF Director of Research and Conservation, adding, “If we were able to breed 29 eagles in limited conditions in the Philippine Eagle Center (PEC) facility in Malagos, what more at the new bird sanctuary?” 

Philippine Eagle Foundation Executive Director Dennis Salvador at the NBBS during the Davao media tour at NBBS, a day before the facility officially closed to the public

At the National Bird Breeding Sanctuary. John Howe, Executive Director, Raptor Resource Project; Domingo Tadena, Conservation Breeding Consultant; Dennis Salvador, PEF Executive Director; and Dr. Jayson Ybañez, PEF Director of Research and Conservation 

Modern technology will play a big role in the sanctuary. The breeding cages will be fitted with state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment to closely monitor the birds 24/7, thanks to the aid of the Raptor Resource Project. Its Executive director John Howe shares that each moment of the eagles’ lives—from mating to egg-laying and hatching, from eaglet to adulthood when it can be released to the wild— will be captured in 4K resolution video and streamed live for the world to witness. Within the facility, the monitoring via the camera minimizes human encounters, which is beneficial to the eagle’s normal way of life; and beyond it, it connects the eagles in its natural environment to the rest of the world. The live streaming is not only educational, but also increases public awareness of the PEF’s conservation efforts and invites public support to the preservation advocacy. 

John Howe of Raptor Resource Project demonstrates the capabilities of the cameras thy donated to monitor the eagles 24/7 

Avian flu is the primary reason for the breeding eagles’ exodus to its new sanctuary in Eden. Game and poultry farms sprouting around the PEC increases the risk of exposure to highly pathogenic diseases such as Avian Flu. In March 2022, threat was on PEC’s doorstep when an outbreak occurred in a town not far from the facility. It put all 32 eagles at risk of being exterminated and further endangering the species’ existence. 

As of March 2023, a recent study shows that the general population of the Philippine eagle is at 392 pairs (left) in the wild with the Leyte population believed to be extinct. In NBBS, the PEF can explore and experiment on other breeding and rearing techniques to bolster future reintroduction and/or restocking trials, including experimental chick-rearing by natural eagle pairs. 

For PEF, the first significant moment in their conservation efforts happened in 1992 when the first captive bred eaglet hatched. It was aptly named Pag-asa (hope). Pag-asa was the hope for the future recovery of the species—hope for our country, said Dennis Salvador. It was a monumental success in the center’s breeding and conservation efforts. 

In the same year, the hatching of the Philippine eagle Pagkakaisa followed. Since then, the center has 29 eagles with the pair Dagitab and Brianne’s offsprings accounting for 11 eagles, and LDI (female) and Tsai producing seven offspring. The Philippine eagle is a monogamous species and keeps one mate for life. With the bird sanctuary as a more conducive site for breeding, the PEF is looking forward to more captive bred born eagles in the future.

The Philippine Eagle Foundation board of trustees extends their gratitude to the everyone who helped to complete the first phase of the new sanctuary: Boeing Southeast Asia, the City Government of Davao, InLife Insular Foundation, Raptor Resource Project, PK Holdings, Maria Mitchell Association, Ulticon Builders Inc., International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators, Animal Behavior and Conservation Connections, Environmental Incentives and Michelle Hersch Berger.