Animals in the Emergent Layer of the Rainforest

By Holly Schubert
Butterflies, the many animals, the emergent layer, the rain forest
rainforest butterfly image by michael luckett from

The top layers of the tallest trees in the rain forest make up what is known as the emergent layer. These trees rise up to 200 feet above the ground, and are typically of the broad-leaved hardwood variety. Many types of animals live in this layer, including eagles, monkeys, bats, butterflies, toucans, sparrowhawks and pygmy gliders.

Harpy Eagles

With wingspans of up to seven feet and five-inch claws, this species of eagle is one of the world's largest and most powerful. The harpy eagle lives in the Central and South American rain forests. Females weigh anywhere from 14 to 18 pounds and are larger than the males, which weigh anywhere from 10 to 16 pounds. The harpy eagle's feathers are light colored on the underside and slate black on the top side. Its tail is composed of long, dark gray feathers with horizontal bars, and light gray feathers cover its legs. Harpy eagles mate for life. They are carnivores and hunt 19 different species, including, but not limited to, sloths, opossums, iguanas and other birds. This eagle can only fly with prey weighing less than half of its body weight. Deforestation is encroaching into the harpy eagle's habitat, reducing its population and making it an endangered species.

Capuchin Monkey

Capuchin monkey
Capuchin Monkey in Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica image by Oren Sarid from

Weighing three to nine pounds, this monkey has light fur around the face, neck and shoulders. Its fur is dark brown on the top of its head and from its shoulders down, with a long tail covered in fur. Capuchin monkeys typically live in large groups of 10 to 35 individuals. According to the Rainforest Alliance website, the exact range of the capuchin monkey's habitat is not known, but it is assumed that it inhabits "a large range in Brazil and other parts of Latin America." The capuchin monkey communicates through calls, and it eats fruit, insects, leaves and small birds. Jaguars and large birds of prey are natural predators of the capuchin monkey.


toucan image by Adrian Hillman from

There are 40 different varieties of toucans. They range from seven to 24 inches tall, and they have large and colorful lightweight bills. The males' bills are brighter in order to attract females. Toucans are located in South and Central American rain forests, frequently residing in hollowed-out holes in trees. Their diet consists of fruits and berries. Toucans may also, on rare occasion, eat small animals such as lizards and small birds. Toucans are able to eat such animals due to their sharp bills that have a saw-like edges.


macaw image by Steve Mutch from

Sixteen different varieties of macaws exist. This bird ranges from 12 to 36 inches long, and their tails are as long as or longer than their bodies. Macaws live in Central and South American rain forests. They have four toes---two pointed forward and two pointed backwards. The macaw dines on nuts and fruit seeds.

Pygmy Glider

10 to 14 grams, the pygmy glider, the smaller animals, the rain forest
pygmy hippo and bird image by Joo Hwee Goh from

Weighing 10 to 14 grams, the pygmy glider is one of the smaller animals in the rain forest. It has has gray-brown fur with a white underbelly. Pygmy gliders live in groups of 10 to 25 individuals. They eat nectar, manna, sugary sap and invertebrates.

Madagascar Sparrowhawk

Located in the Madagascar rain forest, this sparrowhawk has rather long legs. Their coloring is dark brown and gray with lighter underbellies. However, males tend to have a bluer tint than the females.This sparrowhawk's diet consists of insects, frogs and toads, reptiles and birds.

About the Author

Based in Grand Rapids, Mich., Holly Schubert has been freelance writing since 2006. Her articles have appeared online at NextLevelFinance and eHow. She primarily writes travel articles for eHow, but she enjoys writing about financial topics as well. Schubert holds a diploma in freelance writing from Penn Foster University.