Thinking Citizen Blog — Have You Ever Seen a “Steller’s Eagle”?
Thinking Citizen Blog — Wednesday is Climate Change, the Environment, and Sustainability Day
Today’s Topic: Have You Ever Seen a “Steller’s Eagle”? What Bird Do You Dream of Seeing? Do You Have a Bird List?
Birds are amazing. The plumage. The flight patterns. The songs. Do you have a favorite? What drives your choice? Today’s post was inspired by an article in the Boston Globe by legendary birder David Sibley on the “steller’s eagle” which I had never heard of before. Today a few excerpts from the article plus additional notes and a few photographs. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
TWICE THE WEIGHT OF A BALD EAGLE, NATIVE TO THE KAMCHATKA PENINSULA (THE EASTERNMOST PART OF SIBERIA) AND NORTHERN JAPAN
1. “They are rare, with a global population of less than 5,000,”
2. “Until this year, only a few had ever been seen on this side of the Pacific Ocean, and only in western Alaska.”
3. “It was enough to fuel a birder’s fantasies, but I never expected to see one, let alone in New England.”
NB: “This bird scores an 11 out of 10 on the birders’ excitement scale.”
THE SURPRISE NEW ENGLAND SIGHTING, AND THEN ANOTHER, AND THEN ANOTHER
1.“Early on Dec. 20, 2021, the news came that a Steller’s Sea-Eagle was seen on the Taunton River, only an hour away from me. I dropped everything and headed there. Luckily, it stayed for a few more hours, and hundreds of happy birders were able to watch it as it sat and preened alongside some Bald Eagles. When it eventually took off, it circled for about 10 minutes and then set its wings, headed northwest, and disappeared.”
2. “Ten days later it was found again, having moved about 180 miles northeast to the coast of Maine. It was seen almost daily in that area until Jan. 24, but then it disappeared again, despite intensive searching by hundreds of birders. A few weeks later, the Sea-Eagle has made another appearance in Maine playing hide-and-seek with the searchers.”
3.“A string of increasingly remarkable Steller’s Sea-Eagle sightings began in August 2020 in interior Alaska, then Texas (in March 2021), New Brunswick and Quebec (June to July 2021), and Nova Scotia (November 2021), before arriving in Massachusetts and Maine. The timeline and careful comparison of photographs suggest that it is the same eagle, wandering thousands of miles over 16 months through North America. It never stayed long in any one place and went missing for months at a time. How many states and provinces did it pass through? Where was it during that missing month between Nova Scotia and Massachusetts? And the biggest question: Where will it go next?”
WHAT IS THIS STELLER’S EAGLE DOING IN NEW ENGLAND? IS IT LONELY? IS IT LOST?
1. “Many people feel an anthropomorphic sense of sadness, that this bird is “lost” and “alone,” but I think it’s better to consider it an explorer. This eagle wasn’t blown off course by a storm. It made choices, day after day, to move east.”
2. “It might have a faulty internal compass, or it might just feel the urge to wander. Many of the “off-course” birds that we see survive and migrate back to their traditional range. In this way, they are pioneering new migration routes and new territory, which can lead to future range expansion for their species.”
3. “The ability to fly gives birds unrivaled mobility. It’s one of the things that makes birding so exciting, and one of the things that makes birds so adaptable.”
NB: It’s remotely possible that this Steller’s Sea-Eagle is a harbinger, and more could follow.
FOOTNOTES — breeding, residency, normal “vagrant range”
orange — breeding only; green — resident all year; dark blue — winter only; light purple — vagrant range
1. Females are larger than the males.
2. Brown plumage, white wings and tail, yellow beak and talons
3. Latin name: Haliaeetus Pelagicus
NB: weight range 11–20 lbs
A LINK TO THE LAST FOUR YEARS OF POSTS ORGANIZED BY THEME:
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#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, 11/17/20
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