Coastal Conversations 3/25/22: Rare Steller’s sea-eagle sparks attention and imagination

Producer/Host: Natalie Springuel

Maine coastal and ocean issues: Rare Steller’s sea-eagle sparks attention and imagination

Since late December 2021, a rare Steller’s sea eagle has been repeatedly sighted by hundreds of people on the Maine coast. This raptor is significantly bigger than our own beloved Bald Eagle. Its home range is very far away in coastal Siberia, around the Sea of Okhotsk and the Kamchatka Peninsula, down to Northern Japan and as far as the Korean Peninsula.

There are reportedly only around 4000 Steller’s sea-eagles on the planet, and they are listed as a vulnerable species on The International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.

Starting back in August of 2020, birders noticed its presence in Alaska. A few months later in March of 2021, a raptor presumed to be this same eagle was sighted in Texas. And then in June multiple confirmed sightings were reported all the way east, in Québec’s Gaspé Peninsula. November in the Canadian Maritimes, December was Massachusetts, and then, December 30, 2021, it landed in Maine and continued to be sighted in the Georgetown to Boothbay region until March 5th.

Why has this Steller’s Sea Eagle been wandering the northern hemisphere? What do we know about its ecology and conservation? And how has its presence captured the imagination of seasoned birders, coastal residents, and a growing cadre of community scientists? These are the topics for today’s episode of Coastal Conversations.

Doug Hitchcox, Staff Naturalist at Maine Audubon
Jeff Wells, Vice President for Boreal Conservation at National Audubon
Brent Pease, Ph.D. – Assistant Professor of wildlife conservation and management at Southern Illinois University

About the host:
Natalie Springuel has hosted Coastal Conversation’s since 2015, with support from the University of Maine Sea Grant where she has served as a marine extension associate for 20 years. In 2019, Springuel received an award for Public Affairs programming from the Maine Association of Broadcasters for the Coastal Conversations show called “Portland’s Working Waterfront.” Springuel is passionate about translating science, sharing stories, and offering a platform for multiple voices to weigh in on complex coastal and ocean issues. She has recently enrolled in audio production training at Maine Media Workshop to dive deeper into making great community radio.