A rare Steller’s sea eagle was spotted in Massachusetts, thousands of miles away from its home in Asia, wildlife authorities said Monday. It’s the first known sighting of the eagle in the state, one bird expert told CBS News.
The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife said the majestic bird was spotted along the Taunton River last week. The species can weigh up to 20 pounds and has a wingspan of up to 8 feet long, making it one of the largest raptors in the world, according to the post. A photo shared by the wildlife agency showed the large bird, which is known for its distinctive yellow beak, dark body and white shoulders and tail.
Experts believe it’s the same bird recently observed in Alaska and Canada, and was featured in Smithsonian Magazine, CBS Boston reports. According to the New York Times, this bird is believed to be lost – it has been roaming across North America since August 2020 and seen as far as South Texas.
Andrew Farnsworth, a senior research associate at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, told CBS News on Tuesday that the “spectacular” bird is very likely the same one and it’s the first known sighting of the raptor in Massachusetts. While it likely isn’t searching for its kind, Farnsworth believes the bird is taking cues fromwho eat large fish, just as Steller’s sea eagles do.
“Out of range birds like this are usually following their own programming so to speak,” he said. “It’s clearly associating with bald eagles, which are closely related, probably because of their similarities in behavior and ecology and diet among other things.”
The San Diego Zoo, which has some Steller’s sea eagles in captivity, said the bird is native to northeastern Siberia in Russia. Many stay in the region during the warm season or year round, while some migrate to Kuril Islands and Hokkaido, Japan. The species is considered vulnerable, according to the zoo. Human behavior is threatening their habitats despite having legal protections in Russia and Japan.
But in terms of the traveling bird surviving in the North America, Farnsworth likes its odds.
“Chance are good that it can,” Farnsworth said. “It’s made it so far.”