Eagle Native to Northeastern Asia Makes Rare Appearance in U.S.

by Victoria Santiago
(Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

An eagle typically found in Northeastern Asia along the Bering Sea has been spending some time in the U.S. The Steller’s sea eagle has been spending its winter along the East Coast, much to the delight of local birders. It’s safe to say that this bird is far, far from home. People are wondering if it’s the exact same bird that showed up in the U.S. and Canada back in 2020 and 2021. The Steller’s sea eagle must’ve enjoyed its vacation so much that it decided to come back again!

The bird was originally seen in Alaska. It was photographed on the Denali Highway, which is towards the interior of AK. It didn’t stick around long, and many think that it made its way back to the coast. Since then, the eagle has made its way through Nova Scotia, Massachusetts, and now, Maine.

Of course, as with any awesome sighting like this, the Steller’s sea eagle was soon seen in Texas. There’s a photo showing the bird, but people are skeptical that it made it all the way to the Lone Star state. Since so many people were curious if the bird really was in Coleto Creek Reservoir, TX, some went to the location to try to see the eagle for themselves. Really, though, how could the bird have flown clear across the U.S. without being seen on the way down?

Birders Are Quick to Verify the Path of the Steller’s Sea Eagle

Unfortunately, this sighting has remained largely unconfirmed. Curious birders visited the reservoir the day after the famed Texas picture was posted online. They didn’t see the Steller’s sea eagle anywhere, but they did find the landmark in the photo. They managed to find the exact branch that the bird had been roosting on in the picture. When birders found that, they began to wonder. Maybe it was an eagle that had been kept as a pet and had escaped or been let loose.

Regardless, birders everywhere have this eagle on their radar. According to Outdoor News, there are only around 5,000 Steller’s sea eagles alive today. That makes these U.S. sightings doubly rare. Dedicated birders could travel to the bird’s native Asia or Russia and still probably wouldn’t see one.

So, what exactly is this rare bird doing? No one is sure. Birds get severely off-course sometimes. Usually, there’s no rhyme or reason for it. “Out of range birds like this are usually following their own programming so to speak,” Andrew Farnsworth, a Cornell Lab of Ornithology research associate, said. “It’s clearly associating with bald eagles, which are closely related, probably because of their similarities in behavior and ecology and diet among other things.” Even though the birds are similar, there are still differences. The Steller’s sea eagle outweighs the bald eagle by a few pounds. On average they weigh about 20 pounds. Bald eagles only weigh 14 pounds or so.

We can assume that this rare bird will keep traveling through the U.S. If it flies close to you, it might be worth a birdwatching trip.