Birdwatchers are mesmerized by the sight of the Steller’s sea eagle in Atlantic Canada

An unusual adventure of a rare eagle from Russia to Texas, Quebec and finally Nova Scotia has birdwatchers both confused and enthralled.


This Steller’s sea eagle walked almost halfway around the world from its home some 8,000 kilometers away on Russia’s east coast.

Phil Taylor, a biologist at Acadia University, spotted the eagle on his way home from lunch with colleagues on November 3, on the banks of the River Avon near Falmouth, NS.

“And there is this bird. Just sitting there in the mud,” he said in an interview. “It’s a pretty distinctive bird, very easy to identify.”

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This bird is larger than the bald eagle, with white shoulders and tail and a large orange bill. It has a wingspan of up to 2 and a half meters and can weigh up to 10 kg.

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The Steller’s sea eagle is classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and about 6,000 remain in the wild, usually in Japan, China, Korea and on the east coast of Russia.

“It was very special, and I immediately recognized it because the same bird was previously seen in New Brunswick, in July this year,” Taylor said.

Nick Lund, a network director for Maine Audubon who has tracked eagle walks, said the bird was first spotted at Denali National Park in Alaska last August, which ” unusual but not crazy” because it is on the other side of the North Pole. Ocean.

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It disappeared for several months before reappearing in Texas this spring and then turning north to Quebec, Lund said.

“That seems to make more sense for everyone,” Lund said. “Because that’s in the same range of latitudes, as you know, Russia and Alaska give or take, and so that makes a lot of sense.”

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The eagle’s next stop was New Brunswick and now it has been spotted in Nova Scotia.

The bird was photographed at every stop, he said, and the photos were compared to make sure it looked exactly like a bird.

While it’s impossible to know the exact path the bird took, Lund said it’s likely the eagle has covered several provinces and states across the continent.

“And so, it’s remarkable to think about a bird as large as this walking down the road and not being visible all that distance,” he said.

Taylor said the eagle hasn’t been spotted since November 4, but he’s not worried because it disappeared for a long time before reappearing.

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It usually eats fish but can also eat deer, ducks or other small animals, he said.

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“There’s a lot of places it could be and even though it’s big, it’s probably in the back of a little valley somewhere,” he said.

“Or it could be heading to New York or heading to Saint John, New Brunswick, or who knows. We really don’t know.”

Lund said he was hoping the bird would show up in Maine.

“We were sitting out there with the fish on the beach, hanging them so they would fly to us,” he said with a laugh.

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While it’s not uncommon to find a smaller feathered creature like a hummingbird or warbler on a remote road trip, Lund said there’s no precedent for finding the Steller’s sea eagle in Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and certainly not Texas.

“It would be like an old Canadian planter finding a palm tree growing in the tundra, or a fisherman finding a blue whale in their local pond.”

Scientists use the term “virtual living” to describe birds like the Steller’s sea eagle that fly outside their normal range, he said.

Vagrancy could be caused by birds migrating the wrong way, being deflected by the wind or looking for a better habitat, he notes.

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“Purely anthropometrically, I sometimes like to think of birds as just explorers for their native species,” he chuckles.

“They love seeing the globe to be able to tell adventure stories about their homeland. But that is probably not true.”

© 2021 Canadian Press | Birdwatchers are mesmerized by the sight of the Steller’s sea eagle in Atlantic Canada


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