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Birds of Prey: The Steller's Sea Eagle

Updated on March 12, 2017
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Bill has always had an interest in nature and in particular birds of prey. Learn about these majestic creatures that grace our skies.

Steller's Sea Eagle
Steller's Sea Eagle | Source

While those of us in the western hemisphere may not be overly familiar with the Steller’s Sea Eagle, this beautiful member of the eagle family is certainly worth getting to know. When measured by average weight, the Steller’s Sea Eagle is the heaviest bird of prey in the world. Slightly smaller in dimensions than the Harpy Eagle of Central and South America and the Philippine Eagle, the Steller’s Sea Eagle lives in the coastal regions of northeastern Asia.

Description

The sheer size of the Steller’s Sea Eagle is enough to make this raptor one of the most impressive birds in the world. With adult females reaching 15 to 20 pounds, and a wingspan of between six to eight feet, the Steller’s size strikes an impressive and imposing figure. As is typical of birds of prey, the male is much smaller than the female and will weigh from 11 to 13 pounds. Steller’s will range from about 33 inches in length up to as much as 41 inches for the largest adults.

Steller's Sea Eagle
Steller's Sea Eagle | Source

Steller’s Sea Eagles are generally black to dark brown over most of their body. They have very distinctive white feathers on their shoulders, legs, tail and crown. Their eyes, feet, and very large bill, are all a very bright yellow in color and they have the largest skull of any eagle anywhere in the world. Their full adult coloring is not reached until they are approximately five years old, which is when they reach their sexual maturity. Newborn eaglets are initially a very silky white, which quickly turns to a brownish-grey color within a few weeks.

Source
Range of the Steller's Sea Eagle
Range of the Steller's Sea Eagle | Source
  • Orange: breeding only
  • Green: resident all year
  • Blue: winter only
  • Grey: vagrant range

Habitat and Range

The Steller’s Sea Eagle is pretty much confined to northeast Asia in the area around the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia and the Sea of Okhotsk. Steller's have been found as far south as Taiwan and in North America, but they are considered to be individuals that have wandered from their normal range.

Generally, Steller’s Sea Eagles can be found in one of two habitats: near large rivers and along the sea coast. They prefer areas with large trees for nesting and their nest can be up to five feet deep and eight feet in diameter. In addition to nesting in large trees they will also nest on rocky cliffs. The nests of the Steller’s Eagle are called aeries and a pair will usually return to the same site yearly.

Some, but not all Steller’s will migrate and this seems to be dependent on food availability and sea ice conditions. In the Kamchatka area of Russia many of the eagles will overwinter in the river valleys and forest. Those eagles that do migrate will winter in the southern Kuril Islands and near Hokkaido in northern Japan where they are close to rivers and lakes. They will usually stay until late March to late April before heading back north.

Source

Diet

Steller’s feed on a variety of food but fish is their most common meal. Trout and salmon seem to be their favorite prey. The annual salmon runs are a time for the Steller’s to feast as they compete with brown bears, golden eagles, and other raptors for their favorite meal.

Steller’s will spend a good portion of their day perched high up in a tree as they scan the area for food. With binocular like vision they can spot their prey from a distance before swooping in for the kill. Steller's are powerful enough to catch a fish on the fly and their large talons make for quite the weapon. On occasion they will also hunt small mammals, crabs, other birds, and they are also not opposed to scavenging and stealing food from other raptors.

The Steller's Sea Eagle
The Steller's Sea Eagle | Source

Reproduction

Steller’s Sea Eagles will lay their eggs in mid-spring after a late winter courtship. They will usually lay between one to three eggs that are a greenish white in color. The eggs will incubate for 40 to 45 days during which time the female will rarely leave the nest. Generally only one chick will survive, but this is not always the case, and occasionally two and even three chicks will be raised successfully. The chicks are born with a white silky down that will quickly change to a brownish-grey color as they quickly grow. It normally takes about ten weeks for the eaglets to fledge and this usually takes place by August or September. It will take about five years for the Steller's Sea Eagle to reach their sexual maturity and full color.

Source

Interesting Facts

  • The Steller’s Sea Eagle is named after Georg Wilhelm Steller, a noted 18th-century explorer and zoologist.
  • Steller’s are called O-washi in Japan where they are revered and honored.
  • They are considered one of the largest of all eagles species along with the Philippine Eagle and the Harpy Eagle.
  • A group of Steller’s Sea Eagles is referred to as a “constellation”.
  • They are diurnal, meaning they hunt during the day.
  • The Scientific name of the Steller’s Sea Eagle is Haliaeetus pelagicus.
  • They are unique among all other sea eagles in that they have a bright yellow beak even in juvenile birds.
  • Also referred to as the White-shouldered Eagle or the Pacific Eagle.
  • Due to nests collapsing under their own weight and egg predation only about half to two-thirds of eggs successfully reach adulthood.
  • Steller's Sea Eagles have no natural predators.

That's one big bird!
That's one big bird! | Source

Status

Because of their somewhat remote and limited location, not much is known about this eagle, especially during their early years. Current estimates place the population at about 5,000 and they are afforded complete legal protection in Russia. As is usually the case with raptors that are at the top of the food chain, their biggest threat comes from man. Habitat loss and river contamination are constantly putting pressure on this magnificent bird and their population is slowly decreasing despite the protection. Their current status is list as threatened and vulnerable.

YouTube Video of the Steller's Sea Eagle

© 2012 Bill De Giulio

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    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Nick. Lucky you to be visiting Japan. Hopefully you have an opportunity to see a Steller's while you are there. Good luck.

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      nick 3 years ago

      Hi Bill,

      Huge bird, a good fishermen. Its big but very ordinary looking bird i hope to see it in real next month when i visit japan. Maybe that's the time where i can totally say if its ordinary looking or far more impressive than any other fish eagles.

      Thanks Bill

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Jerry. Determining the largest eagle comes down to how one measures them. Is it weight, length, wingspan? It is generally accepted that the Philippine Eagle and the Steller's are the two largest in the world because of their length and weight. On average the Stellers Sea Eagle is the heaviest eagle in the world and has a slightly larger wingspan but the Philippine is the longest. You can find many lists of the top 10 largest eagle species and they will all be different. Of the three I think the Harpy comes in third although they are very powerful and can crush a monkeys skull with their talons.

      Thanks for the questions. One thing is for certain, they are all large and formidable predators.

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      jerry 3 years ago

      Are they even larger than the phil eagle in size?

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      jerry 3 years ago

      Hi Bill, just curious to know is these eagle larger than the harpy in size?

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks Jerry. They are big and hefty :) Thanks for stopping by, have a nice weekend

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      jerry 3 years ago

      Nice blog jerry....this bird look like a"zumo wrestler of the eagle world."

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      tom 3 years ago

      thanks bill .....ur smart as well as ur so kind and respecfull..... happy holidays......

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Tom, you are very lucky. I have not seen the Harpy in person and would love to see one up close. Perhaps next summer I will try. They are all amazing creatures, beautiful in their own way. My goal is to see all of them up close at some point. As you said, I think my reaction would be "wow". I am trying to decide which eagle to write about next, we'll see. Always feel free to comment as I want the most accurate information. I really appreciate your input. Many thanks for visiting, have a happy Holiday season.

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      tom 3 years ago

      thanks for the reply i really appreciate ur effort...to be honest with u of all the blogs i have read about eagles ur blog is the most accurate for me especially when in terms of facts im just confused only in one part of the facts about stellar that it is considered the largest and the most powerful of all eagle specie. by the way i try to visit panama last year i have seen harpy eagle and its huge bird the largest in their foundation is a female weighting 8 kgs 106 cm and 7 feet wingspan. in davao phil the largest now is 10 kgs 110 cm 8.9 wingspan. ive seen stellers twice in japan. as i compare their size the phil eagle is the largest and u are correct. only the weight is a big ? because as i ask the caretaker the food in the center is being controlled for reproduction purposes. they are not after of claiming their eagle as the largest in the world but to preseve it. i tru to ask some of experts if u feed the phil eagle with abundant food supply how much is the weight it can attain they said it can weigh more than 13 kgs i just don't know how true it is, but that's rediculous to make just to take the title of the largest better to protect it and help preserve to the next generations. when in terms of beauty i agree with u that bird is the most handsome eagle in the world if somebody have a chance to see it in personal a big wow believe it or not its headress is so fantastic. according to david attenbourough its headdress is flbouyant crown that outclasses all other eagles on the world..it looks like a lion mane i can't just imagine im in a prehistoric era....the eyes and beak is bluish really caugh my attention i ve never seen a bird as beautiful as that. the beak is as big asy palm..menacing looks but very majestic....thanks bill looking forward for more of your blogs...

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Tom, yes the Philippine Eagle is considered the largest eagle in the world based on it's size, not it's weight. And the Harpy Eagle is perhaps the strongest Eagle in the world, capable of flying off with up to 20 pounds of prey. Both the Harpy and Philippine Eagles are stronger and the Harpy has the longest talons of any bird of prey in the world. The Steller's Sea Eagle, on average, is considered the heaviest eagle in the world. It really comes down to how one measures the largest eagle; weight, size, strength? I think it's fair to say that the Philippine, Harpy and Steller's are are considered the three largest eagle species in the world based on their size. Perhaps my statement should have read "one of the largest eagles in the world". Thanks for the comment.

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      tom 3 years ago

      For everybody's information the stellers eagle is not the largest and most powerful of all eagle specie in the world as what is stated in the facts above. Indeed on average they are the heaviest eagle in the world. Tha largest eagle in the world on terms of total size is the philippine eagle. The harpy eagle is one of the largest specie of eagle in the world, the philippine eagle is the only living eagle to surpass it in size hence it is larger than the harpies. According to experts the strongest and the most powerful eagle belongs to forest eagle they are the phililppine eagle and the harpy eagle both have the strongest feet and claws as large as that of agrizly bear capable of killing adult mongkey, sloths, deers, large reptiles like monitor lizards pythons and cobras. Wild and domesticated pigs, cats, and dogs stand no chance to these two eagle. They can pop out a monkey skull or even crush a human bone. The stellers are fish eagles feed mainly on fish and it is not the strongest and most powerful eagle in the world. Please make a correction to your facts... thanks

    • profile image

      tom 3 years ago

      For everybody's information the stellers eagle is not the largest and most powerful of all eagle specie in the world as what is stated in the facts above. Indeed on average they are the heaviest eagle in the world. Tha largest eagle in the world on terms of total size is the philippine eagle. The harpy eagle is one of the largest specie of eagle in the world, the philippine eagle is the only living eagle to surpass it in size hence it is larger than the harpies. According to experts the strongest and the most powerful eagle belongs to forest eagle they are the phililppine eagle and the harpy eagle both have the strongest feet and claws as large as that of agrizly bear capable of killing adult mongkey, sloths, deers, large reptiles like monitor lizards pythons and cobras. Wild and domesticated pigs, cats, and dogs stand no chance to these two eagle. They can pop out a monkey skull or even crush a human bone. The stellers are fish eagles feed mainly on fish and it is not the strongest and most powerful eagle in the world. Please make a correction to your facts... thanks

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Sheila. Thanks so much. I really enjoyed learning about the Steller's Sea Eagle. They certainly are beautiful. Many thanks for the vote, etc. Happy a great holiday.

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      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      What a beautiful bird! What a beak it has! All the better to catch his prey, I'm sure. I always love your "Bird of Prey" hubs, they are my favorites! This is just as awesome as the rest. You always do such a good job. The video is awesome too. Voting up and what else...awesome! :) Pinning too!

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Jonah. Thank you for stopping by and the nice comments. Welcome to HubPages, look forward to reading your work.

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      Jonah Thorn 4 years ago from In the Clouds

      I completely agree, well written hub! You're very talented and your reasoning is impeccable, keep up the outstanding work and can't wait to read more from you! Cheers!

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Keala, Always a pleasure to have you stop by for a visit. When I started reading up on the Steller's Sea Eagle it was hard not to write about it. What an amazing creature. Thanks so much.

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      Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      Absolutely delightful, Bill! You definitely are the Birdman of Hubsville! Well-researched, excellently written, and generously complemented with great media. Thank you for sharing!

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Glimmer Twin. Thanks for stopping by. I would love to see one in the wild someday. They are one amazing creature.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Christy. Thank you. I really enjoy writing about these amazing birds. Very much appreciate the vote, share, etc.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Up and awesome. This is a glorious hub. There is one of these beautiful birds at the National Aviary here in Pittsburgh. They are huge and I love to look at their talons. Thanks for this hub.

    • epus profile image

      Epus Gren 4 years ago from Philippines

      I voted up, clicked interesting and useful. This is a good information about the bird.

      The bird is also similar to our Philippine Eagle or the monkey-eating eagle.

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      Christy Birmingham 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      You have a knack for presenting a great deal of information in a way that is by no means overwhelming. Great work here on a beautiful bird. Vote up, useful, and sharing too.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks Alicia. I spent a lot of time searching for the perfect photo to lead into the article. I really love that picture of the Steller's Sea Eagle. I also would love to see them someday, what a thrill that would be. Thanks for the visit.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This hub starts with a very impressive photo, Bill, and the hub is very interesting! These birds are huge. I'd love to see them in the wild.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Deb. When I started researching the Steller's Sea Eagle I just fell in love with them. What a magnificent bird. I would love to see one also. Thanks for stopping by, have a great weekend.

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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      What a gorgeous eagle. I would love to see one and wouldn't mind doing extended research on a family of birds.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks Bill. I included that picture so that readers could get a sense of just how big this bird is. Amazing is all I can say. Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Mary. I've had a great time learning about these amazing creatures. This one in particular I found fascinating. Just their sheer size and the remoteness of where they are located. Thanks so much for the vote, etc..

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Carol. This is one amazing creature. Very rare and only found in northeast Asia. I would love to see one someday. Thanks so much for stopping by and the vote.

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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sheez, I have never heard of this bird. It is huge. The picture of that guy holding one....the bird dwarfs him! Great information, Bill.

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      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Beautiful! These birds are beautiful and you've done a fantastic job of introducing them....I say 'introducing' because I didn't know about them. Your facts are very revealing and this whole thing is well written. Thanks so much.

      Voted up, useful, beautiful and interesting.

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      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      I always enjoy learning about new things. This was most interesting and creates an awareness of the miracles of nature. Great hub. Voting UP++++

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