What Is the Steller's Sea Eagle?

Alex Paul

The Steller's sea eagle is a large bird of prey found along the coast of Russia. It has distinctive brown plumage with white patches and is among the biggest in the world. Fish, such as trout, makes up a large portion of the bird’s diet, but it is capable of taking on small- and medium-size mammals. The conservation status of the Steller's sea eagle is "threatened" as a result of decreasing numbers.

Steller's sea eagle often eats sea birds.
Steller's sea eagle often eats sea birds.

The bird is mainly found along the coastline of North East Asia, in places such as Russia's Shantar Islands. In the winter, it journeys farther south, often to Japan, to find a warmer climate. It is not capable of long-distance migration compared to other eagles. There have been several sightings of the Steller's sea eagle in America, but these are not frequent and there have been no reports of nesting.

Steller's sea eagles build their nests in cliffs along shorelines.
Steller's sea eagles build their nests in cliffs along shorelines.

When fully grown, a Steller's sea eagle usually has a mainly dark brown or black coloring. The birds also have patches of white, often on the tail or shoulders. Steller's sea eagles are one of the largest species of eagle in the world, with a wingspan of up to 8 feet (2.5 meters). Females are usually slightly larger than males and can weigh up to 20 pounds (around 9 kilograms).

Steller's sea eagles are mainly found along the coast, but also sometimes live around marshes, rivers and estuaries. In coastal regions, the birds usually build large nests on cliffs; inland nests are often built in tall pine trees. Nests are always built near water for a constant supply of food.

The diet of the Steller's sea eagle mainly consists of fish, particularly trout and salmon. It also often eats other sea birds and mammals. When hunting, the bird will perch on a cliff waiting for its prey, before swooping down to catch it unawares. The eagle’s large size makes it capable of taking on prey as big as young seals. Sometimes the bird also will eat carrion.

A decrease in the number of Steller's sea eagle pairs has placed the species under a conservation status of threatened. This is a result of destruction of its habitat and overfishing, which reduces the bird’s natural source of food. It is estimated that there are only around 5,000 Steller's sea eagles left in the world as of 2011.

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