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Steller's Sea Eagle
Haliaeetus pelagicus

Status: Vulnerable

Population Trend: Declining.

Other Names: Pacific Sea Eagle, Steller's Eagle, Steller's Fish Eagle, Steller's Sea-eagle, White-shouldered Eagle, White-shouldered Sea Eagle.

Haliaeetus pelagicus
click to enlarge
Distribution: Palearctic. Breeds on the coasts of KAMCHATKA, around the Sea of Okhotsk, SAKHALIN ISLAND, inland along rivers in SIBERIA, and possibly KOREA; winters in southern KAMCHATKA, Hokkaido, Honshu, Sea of Japan, Sea of Korea, and Bohai Gulf, CHINA; vagrant on TAIWAN. more....

Subspecies: Monotypic. more....

Taxonomy: A morphological analysis by Zimbelmann (1992), an allozyme analysis by Schreiber and Weitzel (1995), and molecular phylogenetic analyses by Wink et al. (1996), Seibold and Helbig (1996), and Lerner and Mindell (2005), confirmed that Haliaeetus is monophyletic with a close relationship to the milvine kites of the genera Milvus and Haliastur. The latter authors found that the northern sea eagle species, H. albicilla, H. leucocephalus, H. pelagicus, and H. leucoryphus, form a clade distinct from the southern members of the genus. This species was formerly placed in the genus Thallasoaetus.

Movements: Partial migrant (Bildstein 2006). Some populations are migratory, while others are sedentary or nomadic.

Habitat and Habits: Usually found near water in coastal habitats, or along large river valleys. In the breeding season, it occurs in coastal areas where there is a good supply of fish and tall trees or cliffs suitable for nest sites. It winters mostly near ice-free bodies of water, but is also found on and over sea ice. Occurs from sea level to about 1,000 me (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Feeds mainly on large fish, especially salmon, birds (capercaillie, guillemots, ducks), hares, young seals, and carrion. In autumn, this species is drawn to rivers where dead salmon are abundant after spawning. In the main wintering area in Japan, the main prey item is the Alaskan Pollock (Theragra chalcogramma). This species fishes by wading into shallows or from a sandbar or low promontory, by swooping into water from a perch, or by circling at 6-7 m and making a shallow dive into water feet-first (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001).

Breeding: Builds a massive nest of sticks, which is placed in a large tree on on a rocky cliff. Clutch size is 2 eggs, which are white and unmarked. more....

Conservation: Generally uncommon to rare over its range, although locally common in a few areas. It has suffered population declines from the loss of habitat in Russia during the development of hydroelectric power projects, proposed large-scale coastal and offshore developments of the petrochemical industry, and logging for timber (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001, BirdLife International 2009). Human competition for fish stocks in Russia and Japan has caused some wintering birds to move inland, where they feed on deer carrion, which exposes them to the risk of lead poisoning, especially in inland Japan (Ferguson-Lees and Christie op cit.). Shooting of the eagles themselves has also been a local problem in parts of the wintering range. Categorized globally as Vulnerable by BirdLife International. more....

Population Estimates: Ferguson-Lees and Christie (2001) estimated the global population (defined as the number of adults and immatures at the start of the breeding season) in the range of 1,001 to 10,000 individuals. This was based on estimates in the 1990s in the Russian breeding range, including Kamchatka, of 7,500 birds and winter estimates of ca. 4,000 in Kamchatka and ca. 2,000 in Japan. BirdLife International (2009) estimated the number of mature birds at 5,000 individuals, with the assumption that only a "few hundred" winter in Kamchatka and the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk. more....

Important References: 
Babenko, V.G., D.V. Mazhulis, V.A. Ostapenko, V.I. Pererva, and N.D.
1988. [Distribution, number, and nesting ecology of Steller's
  Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus) in the area of Lower Amur River.] Sbornik
  Trudov Zoologicheskogo Muzeya Moskovskogo Gosurdarstvennogo Universiteta
  26:207-224. (In Russian)
BirdLife International. 2000. Threatened birds of the world. Lynx
  Edicions, Barcelona, Spain, and BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.
Brazil, M. 2009. Birds of East Asia: China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, and
  Russia. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Lerner, H.R., and D.P. Mindell. 2005. Phylogeny of eagles, Old World
  vultures, and other Accipitridae based on nuclear and mitochondrial DNA.
  Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 37:327-346.
Lobkov, E.G., and I.A. Neufeldt. 1986. [Distribution and biology of
  Steller's Sea-eagle -- Haliaeetus pelagicus pelagicus (Pallas).] Trudy
  Zoologicheskogo Instituta 150:107-146. (In Russian)
McGrady, M.J., M. Ueta, E. Potapov, I. Utekhina, V. Masterov, A.
  Ladyguine, V. Zykov, J. Cibor, M. Fuller, and W.S. Seegar.
2003. Movements
  by juvenile and immature Steller's Sea Eagles Haliaeetus pelagicus tracked
  by satellite. Ibis 145:318-328.
Meyburg, B.-U. 1994. Steller's Sea-eagle. P. 123 in del Hoyo, J., A.
  Elliott, and J. Sargatal (eds). Handbook of birds of the world. Vol. 2. New
  World vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Shiraki, S. 2001. Foraging habitats of Steller's Sea-eagles during the
  wintering season in Hokkaido, Japan. Journal of Raptor Research 35:91-97.
Ueta, M., and M.J. McGrady (eds.). 2000. First Symposium on Steller's and
  White-tailed Sea Eagles in East Asia. Wild Bird Society of
  Japan, Tokyo. 127 pp.
Ueta, M., M.J. McGrady, H. Nakagawa, F. Sato, and V.B. Masterov. 2003.
  Seasonal change in habitat use in Steller's Sea Eagles. Oryx 37:110-114.
Ueta, M., F. Sato, H. Nakagawa, and N. Mita. 2000. Migration routes and
  differences of migration schedule between adult and young Steller's Sea
  Eagles Haliaeetus pelagicus. Ibis 142:35-39.

Sites of Interest:
Institute for Wildlife Studies
Useful information on the situation for this species in Russia and Japan.
Steller's Sea Eagle photos.
Steller's Sea Eagle satellite tracking
Joint site of Natural Research Products and the San Diego Zoo, showing movements of migrating birds.
Red Data Book Threatened Birds of Asia
Detailed information on status, threats, and proposed conservation actions.

Ma, Ming
Matz, Angela
McGrady, Mike
Pokrovsky, Ivan
Potapov, Eugene

Last modified: 2/12/2012

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2021. Species account: Steller's Sea Eagle Haliaeetus pelagicus. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 12 Jun. 2021

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