Steller's sea eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus)

Spanish: Pigargo de Steller, Pigargo Gigante
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderFalconiformes
FamilyAccipitridae
GenusHaliaeetus (1)
SizeFemales: 9 kg (3)
Males: 6 kg (3)
Length: 85 - 94 cm (2)

Steller's sea eagle is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1). Listed on Appendix II of CITES (4), and Appendix I of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS or Bonn Convention) (6).

Steller's sea eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus) is one of the largest of the sea and fish eagles of the genus Haliaeetus (3). These large blackish-brown birds have an enormous, strongly arched yellow bill (3). The feathers on the shoulders, tail and legs are white (2), and females are generally the larger sex (3).

Steller's sea eagles breed in eastern Russia, around the Sea of Okhotsk and on the Kamchatka Peninsula. A small number of birds remain in Kamchatka over the winter but the majority fly south to the Japanese Islands of Kuril and Hokkaido (2). This species is also occasionally seen in China and North and South Korea (2).

Inhabits coastal cliffs and estuaries; further inland, Steller's eagles are associated with river and lakeshore forests (5).

Steller's sea eagles start to build their large, bulky nests in the trees in late February and early March (3). The first eggs are laid in mid-April, and clutch size varies from one to three eggs; hatchlings emerge in mid-May to mid-June and begin to fly by August and early September (3).

These large birds feed predominately on salmon (Onchorhynchus spp.), which are taken both dead and alive. Prey is usually caught by swooping from perches located at the waters' edge, or from circling and diving down; occasionally birds will stand in the shallows to catch fish (5). Steller's sea eagles have a large, powerful bill that is perfectly adapted to ripping and tearing at flesh and these birds will also prey on other fish and the carcasses of animals such as seals and sea lions (3). Where there are large congregations of prey such as salmon, groups of eagles will gather and individuals will often attempt to steal food from each other in a behaviour known as 'kleptoparasitism' (3).

Steller's sea eagles are under threat from a variety of factors. In Russia, the most pertinent threat is habitat loss caused by hydro-electro schemes, together with logging for timber and coastal development (5). Salmon stocks have been depleted in much of the range of this eagle, which in turn threatens population numbers (2).

The magnificent Steller's sea eagle is protected within the countries of its range and internationally by its listing on the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) (2). In addition, international trade is restricted by the placing of this species on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (4). In Russia, these sea eagles are found in a number of reserves where their populations are monitored; the important wintering grounds on the islands of Hokkaido, Shiretoko and Furen-ko in Japan are National Wildlife Protection Areas (2).

For more information on Steller's sea eagle:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
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  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2003)
    http://www.redlist.org
  2. International Committee for the Conservation of the Steller's Eagle (April, 2003)
    http://fadr.msu.ru/o-washinet/
  3. BirdLife International (2003) BirdLife's online World Bird Database: the site for bird conservation. Version 2.0. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International. (accessed 17/4/2003) Available:
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/search/species_search.html
  4. CITES (April, 2003)
    http://www.cites.org
  5. CMS (April, 2003)
    http://www.cms.int/
  6. Red Data Book, Threatened Birds of Asia (April, 2003)
    http://www.rdb.or.id/index.html