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Steller's Sea Eagle - BirdForum Opus

Photo © by Russell Jenkins
Shiretoko, Hokkaido, Japan, 25 February 2006
Haliaeetus pelagicus


Adult in flight
Photo © by Dave Clark
Rausu, Hokkiado Prefecture, Japan, 1 February 2016

Length: 85–105 cm (33½-41½ in); wingspan 195–245 cm (76¾-96½ in); weight: male 4900–6000 g, female 6800–9000 g.
Largest sea-eagle in the genus Haliaeetus. Adults appear dark brown to almost black with white shoulders and white tail with huge, bright yellow bill and feet. In flight leading wing edges are white and white tail is obviously wedged. Trailing wing edges are rounded identifying immature or young birds from young White-tailed Sea Eagles (Haliaeetus albiicilla), which has straighter trailing wing edges, shorter tail, and smaller bill. Immatures are darker, with darker bill and lack large white wing patches. Full adult plumage in the Steller's Sea Eagle appears at 8-10 years.


Photo © by Stuart Price
Nemuo, Hokkaido, Japan, 1 March 2009

North-east Asia: breeds on the Pacific coast of north-east Asia and northern parts of the Korean peninsula, wintering mainly in Korea and Japan, particularly on the Shiretoko Peninsula of Hokkaido. Rarely wanders to China and a vagrant to Pribilof and Aleutian Islands. In the Western Palearctic recorded in Germany in March 1991 and presumably the same bird in Finland in April-August of the same year and again in May 1992. In May 1993 another or the same was reported from Sweden and again in June-July in Finland. In September 1993 a Steller's Sea Eagle, presumably the same, was found dead in Estonia. This is a rather unlikely vagrant to Europe and all reports are generally thought to involve a single escaped bird. However, the species is rare in captivity and no losses were reported.


This is a monotypic species1.

A dark form with white tail but lacking white shoulders which occurs with extreme rarity is sometimes regarded as a subspecies, niger but has recently been confirmed as a colour morph2,4 .


Breeds on sea-cliffs or in tall trees, winters on coasts or on rivers where salmon come to spawn. Often gathers in some numbers on gravel banks in rivers or on ice-floes.



It builds several aeries high up on trees and rock. The first white-green egg is laid and incubated for 39 - 45 days. At about ten weeks, the young birds learn to fly. They reach sexual maturity at 4-5 years.


The diet includes fish, especially salmon and trout, water-dwelling birds, mammals and carrion.


Migrates south from breeding areas in October, returning March-April.


Loud gull-like calls. Also a barking call similar to White-tailed Eagle but louder and lower-pitched.


Immature in flight
Photo © by Joseph Morlan
Nemuro--Ochiishi Port, Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan, 22 February 2019
  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Birdforum thread discussing a dark morph Steller's Sea Eagle.
  3. BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Haliaeetus pelagicus. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 18/05/2019
  4. Kaiser, M. (2011) A living specimen of the dark form of Steller’s Sea Eagle, Haliaeetus pelagicus (“niger”) in captivity. J Ornithol 152: 207. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10336-010-0580-2
  5. Meyburg, B.U., Kirwan, G.M. & Christie, D.A. (2019). Steller's Sea-eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/52988 on 19 May 2019).

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