Replace: The saga of this fowl continued all through 2022. From January to the top of March, the Steller’s Sea-Eagle continued to be noticed by hundreds of birders in Maine. In April, it obtained stressed—birders noticed it in Nova Scotia, after which once more in Newfoundland, the place it resided by way of the summer time and attracted loads of consideration. Most just lately, in November, the fowl was noticed in New Brunswick. The place may this star eagle go subsequent? You possibly can sustain with the its actions by following this Twitter account.
At 10 kilos and with a 7-foot wingspan, the Bald Eagle is among the largest flying birds in america. But the 2 juvenile Bald Eagles I noticed perched in a tree in Massachusetts on December 20, 2021 appeared like pigeons in comparison with the opposite fowl on the limb with them: a Steller’s Sea-Eagle.
Every little thing about seeing a Steller’s Sea-Eagle in New England is unimaginable. It’s an awe-inspiring fowl—a few foot longer and taller than an grownup Bald Eagle and as many as 5 kilos heavier, with a large golden invoice that appears like pirate treasure. It’s uncommon: There are solely about 4,000 of this susceptible species left within the wild, in comparison with lots of of hundreds of Bald Eagles. And naturally, it’s not purported to be right here. Steller’s Sea-Eagles are native to far jap Russia, the Korean peninsula, and northern Japan.
So how did this fowl get to New England? It flew. The entire approach. And it’s nonetheless flying now.
Vagrancy—the tendency for birds to point out up far exterior their regular vary—is among the most enjoyable facets of birding. The Steller’s Sea-Eagle is the epitome of a vagrant fowl, and the identical particular person has been tracked throughout North America because it was first noticed greater than a 12 months in the past. The timeline and travels of this single fowl, from Alaska to Texas to jap Canada to New England, have to be seen to be believed. Now the largest query for birders is the place this wandering big will go subsequent.
Graphic: Alex Tomlinson/Audubon
It’s laborious to know precisely what situation the wandering Steller’s Sea-Eagle is in, however by all accounts it seems wholesome. In spite of everything, it’s clearly robust sufficient to fly throughout a complete continent and take a number of hundred mile flights each couple of weeks. It has been noticed feeding on fish at a number of areas and shows no signal of damage or sickness.
Why the fowl has strayed so removed from its native vary is anyone’s guess. Marshall Iliff, eBird mission chief on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and one of many first to identify the eagle in Massachusetts, says scientists are simply starting to grasp the tendency of raptors to wander. “Raptors are increasingly more blowing our minds with their actions,” he says, “and with extra observers, extra cameras, and digital instruments like eBird, we’re seeing that long-distance raptors dispersals are a uncommon however common phenomenon.” Iliff says that many of those wandering raptors are juvenile birds dispersing to search out new areas to reside. There are different causes birds present up removed from their regular vary, together with habitat loss, climate occasions, and easily migrating within the improper course. (In its native vary, the declining inhabitants is threatened by habitat loss, lead poisoning, local weather change, and nestling predation by brown bears, in response to Worldwide Union for Conservation of Nature.)
Although it is from residence and can probably by no means make it again, there’s an opportunity that this eagle might discover a place it’d like to remain in North America. It’s not unusual for particular person vagrant birds to thrive of their new territory, such because the Pink-billed Tropicbird that has returned to the Gulf of Maine for 16 years and counting. In reality, it’s attainable that Steller’s Sea-Eagles might breed with native Bald Eagles, as evidenced by this supposed hybrid eagle seen in Juneau, Alaska, in 2004.
When requested to guess the way forward for the Steller’s Sea-Eagle, Iliff mentioned he might simply see it wandering North America for years to come back. “I predict that we’re going to have much more enjoyable with this fowl,” he says. The one factor that’s sure with this fowl is that, wherever it’s discovered, it’ll depart a bunch of surprised and elated birders in its wake.