The Steller's Sea Eagle That Is Very, Very Lost

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Bird-watchers person been tracking a Steller’s oversea eagle. They’re usually recovered successful Asia, but this 1 turned up successful Eastern Canada and whitethorn person flown arsenic acold arsenic South Texas.

A Steller’s oversea  eagle astatine  a Russian zoo. Another of its taxon  has turned up   successful  Canada — truthful  acold   from home, “it’s mind-boggling,” an ornithologist said.
Credit...Ilya Naymushin/Reuters

Nov. 5, 2021, 12:58 p.m. ET

Geographically speaking, it would beryllium astir intolerable for this vertebrate to get immoderate much lost.

A rogue eagle popped up connected Wednesday successful eastbound Canada — astir 4,700 miles distant from home. For months, the Steller’s oversea eagle has been tantalizing North American birders with its unusual eastward trek.

“It’s astir arsenic acold distant from your root arsenic you tin be,” said Andrew Farnsworth, a elder researcher astatine the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “It’s mind-boggling.”

Steller’s oversea eagles are uncommon arctic birds with agleam orangish beaks and a 6- to 8-foot wingspan, which means they tin outsize bald eagles. Their autochthonal scope is typically China, Japan and Korea and the eastbound seashore of Russia. While immoderate person flown arsenic acold eastbound arsenic occidental Alaska, nary person ever been known to look adjacent the Atlantic Ocean.

Since it was archetypal spotted connected Alaska’s Denali road last August, the vertebrate has dilatory wandered further inland. It was identified successful Quebec and New Brunswick in July by a distinctive achromatic spot connected its near wing. After respective months of evading quality notice, it reappeared successful Nova Scotia this week.

“It’s nuts. It truly is. It’s 1 of those head-scratching things,” Nate Swick of the American Birding Association said. “Every clip it shows up successful a caller place, there’s a caller circular of this.”

Phil Taylor, a biologist astatine Acadia University, spotted the eagle portion scanning ducks connected Wednesday day successful Falmouth, Nova Scotia.

“I knew precisely what it was, immediately,” said Dr. Taylor, who studies vertebrate migration. “I couldn’t judge it. Something similar this is conscionable 1 successful a million.”

That afternoon, erstwhile Dr. Taylor enactment an alert retired to chap birders, a assemblage of astir 40 radical (some of whom had driven respective hours) gathered to drawback a glimpse astatine the out-of-place avian phenom.

One of Dr. Taylor’s biology section colleagues, Jake Walker, excused himself from a webinar to articulation the throng.

“As soon arsenic I heard astir it, the adrenaline was pumping,” Mr. Walker said.


Credit...Christoph Moning, Macaulay Library, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

It is apt that the aforesaid vertebrate made a confederate detour this outpouring successful South Texas. However, due to the fact that it was seen lone portion perched, the unsocial helping signifier could not beryllium confirmed. “At this point, thing is likely,” Mr. Swick said. “The information that it mightiness person made a stopover successful Texas is arsenic plausible arsenic thing else.”

Gone to Texas oregon not, the bird’s formation has acceptable a record. “It’s done this epic odyssey,” said Alexander Lees, a biodiversity researcher astatine Manchester Metropolitan University successful England who precocious wrote a book connected avian vagrancy.

Vagrancy describes erstwhile birds veer off-course and proceed roving astir — perchance indefinitely — successful hunt of others of their kind. It is not uncommon. There are records of albatrosses spending decades surviving arsenic vagabond singletons successful the incorrect hemisphere, Dr. Lees said. In an inverse illustration from earlier this year, a bald eagle winged its mode to Japan.

Birders imagination of vagrant sightings, said Nick Lund, who works for Maine Audubon and counts himself fortunate to person seen a large achromatic hawk, autochthonal to Central and South America, in his location state successful 2018.

“It would beryllium similar an elephant walking up retired of Africa into Scandinavia,” Mr. Lund said. “Like getting a telephone that the Rolling Stones are playing successful a tract down a warehouse successful the adjacent municipality over.”

Dr. Lees said vagrancy, arsenic a biologic mechanism, could assistance migratory birds grow their ranges, a imaginable vantage arsenic planetary warming redraws the contours of suitable habitat. Dr. Farnsworth said, conversely, utmost upwind — which is anticipated to turn successful frequence and strength arsenic clime alteration progresses — tin besides play a relation successful displacing birds by hundreds oregon adjacent thousands of miles.

What’s adjacent for the lone, pioneering Steller’s oversea eagle? It could migrate on with autochthonal bald eagles down the coastline. It could find its mode backmost to northeastern Asia. It could instrumentality astir Nova Scotia, arsenic it is good adapted to the acold and seems capable to past there. It could die, retired of scope of its archetypal flock.

“It’s similar an avian soap opera,” Dr. Lees said. “We’re each rooting for it. Will it marque it home? Or is it doomed to ne'er spot different taxon of its ain successful its lifetime?”

For now, the lone happening its quality assemblage tin bash is support an oculus out.

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