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What Is the Steller's Sea Eagle?

Alex Paul
Alex Paul

The Steller's sea eagle is a large bird of prey found along the coast of Russia. It has distinctive brown plumage with white patches and is among the biggest in the world. Fish, such as trout, makes up a large portion of the bird’s diet, but it is capable of taking on small- and medium-size mammals. The conservation status of the Steller's sea eagle is "threatened" as a result of decreasing numbers.

The bird is mainly found along the coastline of North East Asia, in places such as Russia's Shantar Islands. In the winter, it journeys farther south, often to Japan, to find a warmer climate. It is not capable of long-distance migration compared to other eagles. There have been several sightings of the Steller's sea eagle in America, but these are not frequent and there have been no reports of nesting.

Steller's sea eagle often eats sea birds.
Steller's sea eagle often eats sea birds.

When fully grown, a Steller's sea eagle usually has a mainly dark brown or black coloring. The birds also have patches of white, often on the tail or shoulders. Steller's sea eagles are one of the largest species of eagle in the world, with a wingspan of up to 8 feet (2.5 meters). Females are usually slightly larger than males and can weigh up to 20 pounds (around 9 kilograms).

Steller's sea eagles build their nests in cliffs along shorelines.
Steller's sea eagles build their nests in cliffs along shorelines.

Steller's sea eagles are mainly found along the coast, but also sometimes live around marshes, rivers and estuaries. In coastal regions, the birds usually build large nests on cliffs; inland nests are often built in tall pine trees. Nests are always built near water for a constant supply of food.

The diet of the Steller's sea eagle mainly consists of fish, particularly trout and salmon. It also often eats other sea birds and mammals. When hunting, the bird will perch on a cliff waiting for its prey, before swooping down to catch it unawares. The eagle’s large size makes it capable of taking on prey as big as young seals. Sometimes the bird also will eat carrion.

A decrease in the number of Steller's sea eagle pairs has placed the species under a conservation status of threatened. This is a result of destruction of its habitat and overfishing, which reduces the bird’s natural source of food. It is estimated that there are only around 5,000 Steller's sea eagles left in the world as of 2011.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Steller's Sea Eagle?

The Steller's Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus) is a large bird of prey, known for its impressive size and distinctive appearance. It has a robust body, dark brown plumage, and a starkly contrasting white tail and shoulders. Native to the coastal regions of northeastern Asia, this eagle is among the heaviest raptors, with a wingspan reaching up to 2.5 meters.

Where can you find Steller's Sea Eagles?

Steller's Sea Eagles are primarily found in Russia's Far East, along the Kamchatka Peninsula, and the coastal areas of the Sea of Okhotsk and Bering Sea. They are also seen in Japan, particularly on Hokkaido, during winter migrations. Their habitat includes coastal cliffs, rivers, and lakes where they can find ample fish to prey on.

What does the Steller's Sea Eagle eat?

Steller's Sea Eagles have a diet that mainly consists of fish, which they snatch from the water with their powerful talons. They are also known to eat waterfowl, small mammals, and carrion. During salmon spawning seasons, these eagles are particularly reliant on the abundant fish populations, which are crucial for their survival.

How rare is the Steller's Sea Eagle?

The Steller's Sea Eagle is considered a vulnerable species, with an estimated population of around 5,000 individuals, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Their rarity is due to their limited breeding range and various threats, including habitat loss, pollution, and overfishing, which reduce their food sources.

What are the main threats to the Steller's Sea Eagle?

Main threats to the Steller's Sea Eagle include habitat destruction, particularly due to logging and development in coastal areas. Additionally, environmental pollution, such as lead poisoning and chemical contaminants, poses significant risks. Overfishing and climate change also impact their food availability, further threatening their populations.

How do Steller's Sea Eagles reproduce?

Steller's Sea Eagles are solitary nesters, often choosing tall trees or cliff faces to build large nests. They typically lay one to three eggs per breeding season, which occurs once a year. Both parents share responsibilities in incubating the eggs and raising the chicks, which fledge at around 70 days old but may remain with the parents for several months thereafter.

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    • Steller's sea eagle often eats sea birds.
      By: Stefan Krasowski
      Steller's sea eagle often eats sea birds.
    • Steller's sea eagles build their nests in cliffs along shorelines.
      By: lindalim
      Steller's sea eagles build their nests in cliffs along shorelines.