American Birding Podcast



#ABArare – Steller’s Sea-Eagle – Alaska

From the wire comes a report of a subadult ABA Code 4 Steller’s Sea-Eagle found on Buldir Island yesterday afternoon. This dramatic species has been known in the ABA-Area a handful of times before, almost exclusively from the Aleutians, but also as far east as Alaska’s southeastern peninsula. This was the case for the most recent prior ABA Area record, an individual near Juneau in 2012.

I am not aware of any photos of the bird, but I’ll update this post should any become available.

Buldir is something of a seabirder’s paradise, and is home to 21 species of breeding seabirds, making it the most diverse colony in the Northern Hemisphere. The island’s colonies include Crested Auklets and Least Auklets, as well as puffins, storm-petrels and other species. It is one of only four locations in the world where Red-legged Kittiwakes breed.

The island lies smack between the Near Islands to the west, which famously include Attu and Shemya, and the Rat Islands including Kiska and Davidof Islands to the east. Despite being just over 7 square miles in size, it hosts two major, and active, volcanoes.  Sadly, this bird is not twitchable as special permission is required to access the island, and for the most part only representatives from the US Fish and Wildlife Service have the ability to obtain it.

Steller’s Sea-Eagle is an impressive member of the genus Haliaetus, which also includes our familiar Bald Eagle, and ranks as one of the largest birds of prey on the planet. It breeds around the Sea of Okhotsk, bounded on the east by Siberia and the west by the Kamchatka Peninsula. Most individuals found in the ABA Area are young birds dispersing from their east Asian home range. Some individuals have a tendency to linger, however, and 3 records involve birds that apparently remained in Alaska for years, including one that possibly paired with a Bald Eagle.