Steller's Sea Eagle

(Haliaeetus pelagicus)

FUN FACT

The Steller’s Sea Eagle and the Bald Eagle are both members of the genus Haliaeetus (the fish-eating eagles), making them close cousins even though the average Steller’s is nearly twice the size of the average Bald!

 

A fierce, impressive raptor with chocolate-brown plumage and striking white shoulders and tail.  The Steller’s Sea Eagle averages 13-20 lbs (with females being roughly a third larger than males), and measures almost four feet from head to tail.  With its deep, strongly arched bill and massive yellow feet, it’s no wonder that the Japanese call this bird O-washi (The Great Eagle).

When it comes to birds, it’s hard to answer the question, “Who is biggest?”  One bird might weigh the most, while another has a greater wingspan, and another still is longer nose-to-tail.  Even so, anyone who has traded stares with our adult female, Aleutia, already knows that Steller’s Sea Eagles are one of the largest species of eagle in the world.   On average, a Steller’s Sea Eagle outweighs both the Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja) and the Philippine Monkey-eating Eagle (Pithocophaga jefferyi), while its average wingspan is second only to its near-cousin the White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) (Steller’s = 7.0 feet, White-tailed = 7.2 feet).  Not surprisingly, an adult Steller’s Sea Eagle has no natural predators.

Despite its impressive proportions, the Steller’s Sea Eagle is still vulnerable to changes in its habitat and food supplies.  Such a huge eagle needs an equally huge territory, so the Steller’s population (which is not large) is widespread and particularly sensitive to habitat loss due to climate change.  In addition, threats to already declining Pacific Salmon populations translate into potential prey shortages during the all-important breeding season.

 

Distribution

Coastal regions along western Bering Sea and Sea of Okhotsk (Russia). Most common on Kamchatka Peninsula. While many birds overwinter as far south as Japan, the Steller’s Sea Eagle travels less in general than its cousin the White-tailed Eagle.

Habitat

Coasts, and coastal riverways with large trees.

Diet

Almost exclusively Pacific Salmon, taken both alive and dead.

Breeding

Believed to breed only along the coast of far eastern Russia, along the Sea of Okhotsk and the Bering Sea. Eggs: 1-3 white-green eggs, laid between mid-April and early-May. Incubation: 39-45 days. Typically, only one chick is reared to fledging at 10 weeks of age.

Status

Vulnerable

At the Aviary

Go toe-to-toe with Aleutia and Kodiak in Eagle Hall near the gift shop.