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What Is a Sea Eagle?

A. Delgado
A. Delgado

A sea eagle is a bird belonging to the genus Haliaeetus. Sea eagle species are found in several parts of the world along coastlines and near inland bodies of water. Their physical features, including size and coloring, vary according to species. They are birds of prey that feed primarily on fish, although they also hunt animals that live near the water. Sea eagles build their nests, or aeries, on seaside cliffs or in tall trees.

One of the most well-known sea eagle species is the bald eagle, which is found on the coasts of the United States and Canada. Adult eagles have brown feathers on their bodies and white feathers covering their head. They range in size from 28 to 37.8 inches (71 to 96 cm) in length, weigh between 6.6 and 13.8 pounds (3 to 6 kg) and have an average wingspan of 80.3 inches (204 cm). A bald eagle's diet includes fish, other birds, reptiles, invertebrates and mammals. They've also been known to steal prey from other birds and mammals.

The Stellar's sea eagle lives along the shorelines of North Korea.
The Stellar's sea eagle lives along the shorelines of North Korea.

The Steller's sea-eagle is one of the largest and rarest eagle species in the world. They live along the shorelines of northeastern Russia, North Korea and Japan. Fully-grown eagles are predominantly dark brown with white wings and white feathers on their legs. They weigh between 11 and 20 pounds (4.9 to 9 kg), measure between 34 to 41 inches (86.5 to 105 cm) long and have a wingspan of 6.7 to 7.9 feet (2 to 2.4 m) wide. Steller's sea-eagles hunt during the day, using their sharp eyes to find fish, mammals and birds.

Sea eagles build their nests on seaside cliffs.
Sea eagles build their nests on seaside cliffs.

White-bellied sea-eagles inhabit the coastal areas, lakes and rivers of Australia, Papua New Guinea and Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. They have white feathers on their head and chest and dark gray back, wing and tail feathers. Adults are 28 to 35 inches (70 to 90 cm) long, weigh 5 to 9 pounds (2.5 to 4.2 kg) and have wingspans measuring around 6 feet (2 m) wide. The white-bellied sea-eagle likes to feed mainly on sea snakes, although it also eats fish, turtles and other birds.

Madagascar fish-eagles are found in forested areas near the western shores of the island nation. Adults have white faces and throats, dark brown wings and reddish-brown backs and chests. They range in size from 27.5 to 31 inches (70 to 80 cm) long and have an average wingspan of 15 inches (48 cm) wide. This species of sea eagle is critically endangered mainly due to habitat loss.

African fish-eagles live along the coast and near lakes, lagoons and rivers in parts of southern Africa. They are similar in appearance to bald eagles, with brown or black feathers on their wings and bodies and white feathers on the head and tail. This species grows between 24 and 29 inches in length (63 to 75 cm) and weighs between 4.4 to 8 pounds (2 to 3.6 kg). They are known for being extremely loud and noisy.

Other species of sea eagles around the world include Pallas's fish-eagle in India, the white-tailed fish-eagle of northern Europe and Sanford's sea-eagle in the Solomon Islands, Bougainville and Buka. Pallas's fish-eagle and the white-tailed fish-eagle resemble the bald eagle and African fish-eagle in coloring. The Sanford's sea eagle's coloring ranges from light brown feathers on the head to a reddish-brown chest and dark brown back and wings.

Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is a sea eagle?

A sea eagle refers to any of the birds of prey in the genus Haliaeetus, which primarily feed on fish and are found near large bodies of water. These majestic birds are characterized by broad wings, strong beaks, and keen eyesight. They are among the largest eagles, with some species like the Steller's sea eagle having a wingspan of up to 2.5 meters.

How many species of sea eagles are there?

There are eight species of sea eagles globally, each adapted to its habitat and region. These include the Bald Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, and Steller's Sea Eagle, among others. They are distributed across various continents, with the Bald Eagle being a prominent symbol of the United States.

Where can sea eagles be found in the world?

Sea eagles have a widespread distribution, inhabiting coastal regions, rivers, and lakes across the globe. They are found in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. The Bald Eagle, for instance, is prevalent in North America, while the White-tailed Eagle is more common in Eurasia.

What do sea eagles eat?

Sea eagles have a diet that primarily consists of fish, which they skillfully catch with their powerful talons. However, they are opportunistic feeders and may also consume birds, small mammals, and carrion. Their hunting technique often involves snatching fish directly from the water's surface or even stealing prey from other birds.

How do sea eagles differ from other eagles?

Sea eagles are distinct from other eagles in their habitat preference, diet, and physical adaptations. They are typically found near water and have specialized features like larger beaks and talons for catching and eating fish. Their plumage is also adapted for a life spent predominantly near water, with some species exhibiting water-repellent feathers.

Are sea eagles endangered?

The conservation status of sea eagles varies by species. Some, like the Bald Eagle, have made remarkable recoveries after being on the brink of extinction, thanks to conservation efforts. However, others, such as the Philippine Eagle, are critically endangered. Habitat destruction, pollution, and overfishing pose significant threats to their populations.

Discussion Comments


I have seen sea birds sometimes drop their prey on hard rocks to kill it, or in the case of shell fish to crack the shells. I find the intelligence of these animals very impressive, not to mention their physical skills and highly developed senses. I could watch them flying about for hours because watching them is so relaxing for me.


When I lived on the coast I would often retreat in nature and watch the osprey. For you not familiar with this bird of prey, I will say that the osprey is sometimes referred to as a "fish eagle" or a "sea hawk." This should give you an idea of the makeup of the animal.

Anyway, sometimes I would watch the osprey, which were dwindling in number at this time. Sometimes when the ospreys would catch prey and fly away with their potential meals, bald eagles would pursue them and harass them until the ospreys dropped the food, so they could escape the pursuit of the bald eagles.

This was an amazing sight to see. Both of these birds are magnificent when in flight. Of course the eagles would collect the discarded food and take it back to their nests. This was one reason the osprey was dwindling in number.


I didn't know bald eagles were considered to be sea eagles. I always think of them being found in heavy timber country and not on the coast near the ocean. Another interesting fact I was surprised to learn recently about eagles is that half of them die before reaching adulthood. I thought that such a powerful bird with so few natural predators would have a better survival rate.

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    • The Stellar's sea eagle lives along the shorelines of North Korea.
      By: Ruslan Olinchuk
      The Stellar's sea eagle lives along the shorelines of North Korea.
    • Sea eagles build their nests on seaside cliffs.
      By: lindalim
      Sea eagles build their nests on seaside cliffs.