Nature

An Asian Sea Eagle Is Roaming New England


Fowl migration is a marvel. 1000’s of species repeatedly undertake cross-continental journeys, navigating by way of an inner compass that scientists nonetheless don’t absolutely perceive. 

Generally they get blown off target. Or a chook’s navigation system — which scientists assume is linked to the Earth’s magnetic discipline — goes haywire. However it’s not day by day {that a} chook get so misplaced it finally ends up on the alternative aspect of the world. 

That’s precisely what has occurred to at least one wayward Steller’s sea eagle. For the final a number of months, the chook nerd corners of the web have been abuzz with sightings of this uncommon Asian species throughout Canada and New England.

Learn on to find out about this chook’s exceptional and surprising journey, and the place it’d find yourself subsequent. 

What precisely is a Steller’s sea eagle?

Consider the Steller’s sea eagle as jap Asia’s equal of a bald eagle, however on steroids. This species, Haliaeetus pelagicus, is considered one of 10 birds within the sea eagle genus, together with our acquainted bald eagle. 

The very first thing you’ll discover concerning the Steller’s sea eagle — when you’re fortunate sufficient to see one — is its dimension. This chook is very large. Actually, actually huge. 

large raptor with black and white plumage flying
A Steller’s sea eagle in flight in its native vary. © Peter Taylor / Fliclr

On common, Steller’s sea eagles weigh between 11 and 20 kilos and have a wingspan of 6-to-8 ft. (For comparability, that places them someplace between a bald eagle and a California condor.) They’re one of many largest eagles on this planet, relying on when you measure by wingspan, weight, or general mass. The opposite widespread contenders for the title are the Philippine eagle and the harpy eagle of South America.

They’ve a brilliant orange beak and ft, and wealthy, darkish brown plumage with conspicuous white on the shoulders and tail. As their identify suggests, they prey on ocean-dwelling fish and are sometimes famous following fishing boats in the hunt for scraps.

The Steller’s sea eagle is discovered alongside Asia’s Pacific shoreline, from the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia, down alongside the coasts of mainland China, Japan, and the Korean Peninsula. Solely 4,000 people stay within the wild, and the species is listed as weak by the IUCN. 

large bird of prey diving towards watcher with feet outstretched
A Steller’s sea eagle getting ready to grab a fish in Japan. © Sascha Wenninger / Flickr

How did it get right here, and the place is it now?

This specific eagle was first sighted in August 2020 close to Denali, Alaska.  Whereas that’s nonetheless far outdoors of the chook’s typical vary, it’s a considerably regular emptiness for this species. eBird knowledge exhibits a handful of Steller’s sea eagle sightings in Alaska and the Aleutian chain, with the birds possible island hopping their means throughout the Bering Strait. 

However this most up-to-date sea eagle took issues a bit too far, and stored going throughout the continent to the jap seaboard. 

The eagle’s precise path from west to east is unknown, aside from a perplexing sighting from southern Texas in March 2021. Birders at a nature retreat close to Victoria, Texas posted a photograph of what was clearly a Steller’s sea eagle, however the picture wasn’t detailed sufficient to substantiate whether or not or not this was the identical particular person. A big winter storm had not too long ago blown by means of from the north, so it’s inside purpose that the chook took an unintended southerly detour.

large bird of prey flying
© Lim Yangmook/ Wikimedia Commons

The path went darkish once more for a number of months, till the chook was noticed in late June 2021 on Canada’s Gaspe Peninsula. It spent the following few months on the coastlines of the Gulf of St Lawrence, with sightings in late July and early August. In early November, the eagle traveled south to Nova Scotia’s Avon River.

The following sighting occurred simply earlier than Christmas, on 20 Dec 2021, alongside the Taunton River east of Windfall, Rhode Island. Then on the finish of the 12 months the chook turned again north, with sightings from 31 December alongside Maine’s Sheepscot River. 

Since then birders have flocked to the world (pun supposed), selling an amusing word from Maine Audubon for birders to please not inconvenience lobstermen making an attempt to unload their catch on the docks. A number of days later, confusion arose on the precise location of the chook when “images of what seemed to be the eagle had been discovered to really be a bizarrely eagle-like a part of a tree.”

trees with a large raptor perched in the top
The vagrant sea eagle perched on a tree in Maine. © Tom Murray

Why is it so removed from house?

This wayward Steller’s sea eagle is a fairly excessive instance of a vagrant, or a chook that’s discovered far outdoors of its regular vary. Vagrancy itself isn’t all that uncommon, it simply usually occurs on a a lot smaller geographic scale. A northern cardinal would possibly find yourself in Idaho, or a Eurasian species would possibly find yourself in Alaska after a winter storm. 

The truth that this chook has survived for therefore lengthy outdoors of its regular vary suggests it may persist in North America for fairly a while. Birders have noticed it searching and feeding repeatedly, it seems to be wholesome, and the New England shoreline supplies ample habitat.

large dark raptor perched in a tree
The vagrant eagle on Georgetown Island, Maine. © Dominic Sherony / Flickr

The place can I see the ocean eagle?

As of this writing, the final confirmed sighting occurred on 11 January in southern Maine.

In case you stay close by and are critical about trying to find this chook, Maine Audubon is collating sightings on this uncommon chook alert submit. I’d additionally suggest establishing Google alerts for the species, in addition to subscribing to the Maine uncommon chook alert listservs. Native Fb teams will also be good assets for rarities, relying on what number of native birders take part.

If the eagle strikes on, it may flip up wherever alongside the northeastern coast, together with Canada. Many professional birders have really helpful looking in places the place bald eagles have not too long ago been sighted, as the 2 species want related meals sources (fish) and habitat (tidal rivers with tree-lined shores). 

Audubon’s Nick Lund notes that “possible areas may embody Boston Harbor, Buzzards Bay, and again on the Taunton River.” Additional afield, he writes that the Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay, or Hudson River are all potentialities.

Wherever the eagle goes, one factor is for certain: birding in coastal New England simply received so much extra attention-grabbing. 

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