Their talons are longer than brown bear claws, their legs are almost as thick as a grown man's wrist and their hooked beaks are flesh-tearing machines – but footage from the first-ever nest cam starring harpy eagles shows the predatory raptors are also gentle, committed parents.  

The camera was set up several months ago by the team at Rainforest Expeditions's Wired Amazonnear Refugio Amazonas lodge in Tambopata, Peru. Harpy eagles Baawaja and Kee Wai reside here atop the leafy jungle canopy, and much to the excitement of local researchers, the birds recently hatched a chick.  

"We have observed the important role the female, Kee Wai, has in parental care," says the team. "The father, Baawaja, is the hunter and provides different prey, such as howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys and sloths (among other mammals)."

Kee Wai feeds a howler monkey meal to her chick.

We've long known that harpy eagles take down mammalian prey (deer, peccaries and kinkajous are all on the menu), and past studies carried out in Tambopata have revealed that the eagles also eat toucans and other large birds. But HARPYCAM is teaching us even more about those dietary preferences – and helping scientists to learn about harpy behaviour, which is something that's been a surprisingly tricky task over the years. 

Despite being the second heaviest and largest eagle in the world (and one whose call has been compared to a "penetrative scream"), these animals are extremely elusive. In fact, team member Dr Mark Bowler, who has been working in Tambopata for 15 years, has seen a harpy eagle only four times. In a blog post about the project's origins, Wired Amazon director Daniel Couceiro notes that harpy sightings still take his breath away. 

"Its vision captivates your brain and heart," he says of the species. "It is so majestic, so powerful, that even its name has a mythological component; flying creatures with a woman's face and sharp claws that kidnapped and tortured people before carrying them to hell. Its name means 'the one who flies and steals'. It is well earned."

In Greek and Roman mythology, harpies were bird-human hybrids, the personification of storm winds sent from above to sweep the earth. With their impressive two-metre wingspan, it's not hard to see why the harpies' real-life counterparts got their legendary moniker. 

Baawaja swoops in with a squirrel monkey. Notice how Kee Wai shields the chick from accidental harm, and subsequently ensures she and the chick get their fill first. "When you see her close to the male, you understand who rules in that monogamous-forever couple," says Couceiro.

Kee Wai has certainly proved herself to be a doting mother, but Baawaja has also taken turns on baby duty. Not only did the male help incubate the egg, but now that the chick has hatched, Baawaja also regularly delivers fresh leaves to the nest. The team suspects this might have something to do with keeping the hatchling cool in the scorching, humid climate.

Baawaja has also been seen protecting the chick from sweat bees and other pesky insects:

Watch to the end for Baajawa's leaf-arranging skills!

For those concerned about the potential impact a nest cam could have on the family, fear not: HarpyCam is actually located in a neighbouring tree, about 90 feet (30m) above the leaf litter. 

At around a month old, the chick is growing both stronger and more attentive by the day. "And more active," adds the team. "The chick has a very good appetite."

Watch more nest-cam footage – and keep up with future sightings – on the Rainforest Expeditions YouTube channel