Along the coasts of the northwest Pacific Ocean, from Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula southward to the northern islands of Japan and along the Korean Peninsula, lives one of the largest eagle species on Earth. It’s Haliaeetus pelagicus, most commonly known as Steller’s Sea Eagle, the heaviest of all eagles, but not quite the largest in terms of other physical measurements like length and winngspan. The females of the species weigh anywhere between 6.2kg to 9.5kg (13.7 to 21 pounds). Males range from about 4.9kg to 6.8kg (10.8 to 15 pounds).
H. pelagicus is the only species of sea eagle sporting a yellow beak. Even juveniles possess yellow beaks. By the way, that is the largest beak of any eagle in the world. Another distinctive feature is the fact that the species has 14 rectrices rather than the typical 12 rectrices (tail feathers that help steer and brake) that most other eagle species have. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists Steller’s sea eagle as vulnerable, as published on its Red List of Threatened species.
These birds spend summers alongside northerly Russian waters, and some overwinter on the Kamchatka Peninsula, but in the winter months the majority migrate south to Russian territory southwest of Kamchatka, and further south to Japan, Korea, and parts of China. Some birds may wander east along the Aleutian Island chain and find themselves in Alaska. Other vagrants may travel as far south as Taiwan and Hong Kong. Their preferred diet is fish, but when fish isn’t available, the sea eagles will turn smaller birds, in particular gulls, into dinner.
For some perspective on the size of these raptors relative to a human, watch “Bluey & Mizu: the heaviest eagle in the world- Steller’s Sea Eagle!” (1:01):
“Steller’s Sea Eagle” (8:49):
Question Of The Night: Do birds make good pets?