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Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

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 1 to 3 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). The large, powerful bill 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).
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Description

Steller's sea eagle 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).
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Distribution

Range Description

Haliaeetus pelagicus breeds on the Kamchatka peninsula, the coastal area around the Sea of Okhotsk, the lower reaches of the Amur river (south to the Gorin river) and on northern Sakhalin and Shantar, Russia. A few hundred winter in Kamchatka, the northern Sea of Japan, and the coast of Okhotsk, but most (c.2,000) winter in the southern Kuril islands and Hokkaido, Japan. It is an uncommon winter visitor to north-eastern China, North Korea and South Korea. Declining breeding success has been noted in the inland river populations of Magadan district, Russia, from 1991 to 2009, with a slow increase in the breeding success of coastal populations over the same period, suggesting that they can be considered sink and source populations respectively (Potapov et al. 2010). Its total population is estimated at c.5,000 mature individuals and declining overall.

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Steller's sea eagles are native to eastern Russia, specifically, the Sea of Okhotsk and the Kamchatka Peninsula. They are frequent winter migrants south to the Japanese Islands of Kuril and Hokkaido and have been seen as far south as eastern China and Korea. Vagrant individuals have also been spotted in Taiwan and the United States.

Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native )

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Range

Coastal e Siberia; winters to China, Korea, Japan and Ryukyu Is..
  • Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2014. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.9. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/

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Range

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).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Steller's sea eagles are large eagles with dark brown to black feathers on the majority of the body and white on the shoulders, thighs, and crown. They have wedged-shaped, white tails, very large yellow beaks, and sharp, yellow talons. Average mass is 6 kilograms in males and 9 kilograms in females. Body length of both males and females ranges between 85 and 94 centimeters with average wingspans of females around 136 centimeters and males around 118 centimeters.

Average mass: males - 6, females - 9 kg.

Range length: 85 to 94 cm.

Average wingspan: males - 118, females - 136 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger

  • Brown, L., D. Amadon. 1989. Eagles, Hawks and Falcons of the World. Edison, New Jersey: The Wellfleet Press.
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
It breeds on sea coasts and inland near larger rivers (mostly on lower stretches) or lakes, where there are stands of mature trees. In the Magadan district of Russia, successful breeding pairs along coasts appear to produce more fledged chicks than successful pairs on rivers, and average brood size is larger for coastal pairs (Potapov et al. 2010). During the autumn birds forage along rivers where dead salmon are abundant. During mid-winter, birds in Russia tend to remain on the coast, except some that winter in Kamchatka along inland rivers fed by hot springs and at Lake Kurilskoye (M. McGrady et al. in litt. 2012), while those wintering in Japan mainly stay near freshwater, but c.35% move to mountainous areas where many feed on deer carcasses (Ueta et al. 2003).


Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
  • Marine
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Steller's sea eagles breed along sea coasts or near large rivers with mature trees. Sightings very far inland are rare, as they prefer sea coasts that are dotted with estuaries and river mouths. They nest on large, rocky outcroppings or at the tops of large trees. Steller's sea eagles are generally found at elevations ranging from sea level to approximately 100 m.

Migrating Steller's sea eagles winter along rivers in Japan and occasionally move to mountainous inland areas as opposed to the sea coast. They are also occasionally seen over and perching on sea ice in northern waters.

Range elevation: 0 to 100 m.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial ; saltwater or marine ; freshwater

Aquatic Biomes: rivers and streams; coastal

Wetlands: marsh ; swamp

Other Habitat Features: riparian ; estuarine

  • Collar, N. 2001. Threatened Birds of Asia: The BirdLife International Red Data Book. Cambridge, UK: Birdlife International.
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Inhabits coastal cliffs and estuaries; further inland, these birds are associated with river and lakeshore forests (5).
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Trophic Strategy

The main prey of Steller's sea eagles are salmon, taken either dead or alive. When salmon is scarce or not available, other food resources are taken, ranging from invertebrates like crabs and mussels to gulls, small mammals, and carrion. Three types of hunting behaviors have been observed, hunting from a perch, hunting on the wing while circling 6 to 7 meters above the water, and hunting in shallow water. Kleptoparasitism has also been observed when feeding occurs in groups and food is abundant, adults benefit the most from this behavior.

Animal Foods: birds; mammals; fish; carrion ; mollusks; aquatic crustaceans

Primary Diet: carnivore (Piscivore , Scavenger )

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Associations

Steller's sea eagles are important predators of salmon and other prey in their native ecosystems.

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There are no known predators of adult Steller's sea eagles. Eggs and hatchlings are commonly preyed on by arboreal mammals that gain access to nests, such as martens, and by crows.

Known Predators:

  • crows (Corvus)
  • martens (Martes)

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Steller's sea eagles communicate mainly through various vocalizations. A deep, barking cry is commonly heard. During mating displays a loud, gull-like call is used.

Communication Channels: acoustic

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Life Expectancy

Little is known about the lifespan of Steller's sea eagles, but it is thought to be similar to that of their close relatives, white-tailed sea eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla), which live 20 to 25 years in the wild.

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Reproduction

Steller's sea eagles are monogamous, they are often seen in breeding pairs throughout the breeding season, usually lasting from February through August. Both males and females secure their own breeding territories early in the season and nest building occurs in February or March. Displaying begins in March and consists of soaring high above the breeding area while calling.

Mating System: monogamous

Both male and female Steller's sea eagles reach sexual maturity by six or seven years. Breeding occurs seasonally between February and August, beginning with nest building in February and March. Typically, a pair will maintain two to four nests in one breeding territory and use alternate nests from year to year. Nests are most often built on rocky cliffs or in large trees out of thick branches and can reach a size of two meters across and two to four meters thick. The average clutch size is 2 but ranges from 1 to 3. The egg-laying period normally lasts from April through May, and the typical incubation period is 38 days. Eggs hatch between May and June, with fledging taking around 70 days. Chicks leave nests by August or September.

Breeding interval: Steller's sea eagles breed once yearly.

Breeding season: Breeding occurs from February through August.

Range eggs per season: 1 to 3.

Range time to hatching: 38 to 45 days.

Average fledging age: 70 days.

Average time to independence: 70 days.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 6 to 7 years.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 6 to 7 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous

At this time, little is known about the parental investment of Steller's sea eagles. Both parents contribute to raising offspring to independence.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female)

  • 1999. "Species Synopsis Stellar Sea Eagle" (On-line). Accessed March 24, 2008 at http://www.fadr.msu.ru/o-washinet/spsynop.html.
  • 2007. "BirdLife International Species factsheet: Haliaeetus pelagicus" (On-line). Accessed March 17, 2008 at http://www.birdlife.org.
  • Collar, N. 2001. Threatened Birds of Asia: The BirdLife International Red Data Book. Cambridge, UK: Birdlife International.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Haliaeetus pelagicus

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There is 1 barcode sequence available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is the sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen.

Other sequences that do not yet meet barcode criteria may also be available.

ATCTTCGGCGCCTGAGCTGGCATAGTCGGCACCGCCCTC---AGTTTACTCATTCGCGCAGAACTCGGCCAACCAGGCACACTCCTAGGCGAC---GACCAAATCTATAACGTAATCGTCACCGCACATGCCTTCGTAATAATCTTCTTCATAGTTATACCCATCATAATCGGAGGATTCGGAAACTGACTCGTCCCGCTCATA---ATTGGCGCCCCCGACATAGCCTTCCCACGCATAAACAACATAAGCTTCTGACTACTTCCTCCCTCCTTCCTCCTCTTACTAGCCTCCTCAACTGTAGAAGCAGGAGCTGGCACCGGATGAACTGTTTATCCCCCATTAGCAGGCAACATGGCCCATGCCGGAGCCTCAGTAGACTTA---GCCATCTTCTCCTTACACCTAGCTGGAATCTCATCCATTCTAGGGGCAATCAACTTTATCACAACCGCTATCAACATAAAACCCCCAGCCCTCTCCCAATACCAAACACCCTTATTTGTATGATCCGTCCTTATCACCGCCGTCCTACTACTACTCTCTCTCCCAGTCCTAGCCGCT---GGCATCACTATACTACTTACAGATCGAAACCTCAACACAACATTCTTCGACCCTGCTGGTGGAGGTGACCCCATCCTATACCAGCATCTCTTCTGATTCTTCGGACACCCGGAAGTCTACATCCTAATTCTACC
-- end --

Download FASTA File

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Haliaeetus pelagicus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 7
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
VU
Vulnerable

Red List Criteria
C2a(ii)

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2013

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has a small, regionally declining population as a result of habitat degradation, pollution, poisoning by lead shot, and over-fishing. It therefore qualifies as Vulnerable.


History
  • 2012
    Vulnerable (VU)
  • Vulnerable (VU)
  • Vulnerable (VU)
  • Vulnerable (VU)
  • Vulnerable (VU)
  • Vulnerable (VU)
  • Vulnerable (VU)
  • Threatened (T)