Family Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)


Steller's Sea-eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus)


French: Pygargue empereur German: Riesenseeadler Spanish: Pigargo gigante
Other common names: Steller's Fish-eagle

Aquila pelagica


, 1811,

islands on Sea of Okhotsk


Available genetic data insufficient to allow determination of this species’ closest relatives#R. There is a rare dark morph, as shown by an adult female at the zoological park in Berlin that was all dark brown apart from the white tail, its parents being of the normal plumage#R; this dark morph was originally described as race “niger” of S Ussuriland and Korea#R, not known in wild or in captivity for five decades or more. Monotypic.


Coastal regions along W Bering Sea S of Paul’s Bay (Koryakland), and around Sea of Okhotsk; winters S to Ussuriland, Korea and Japan (Hokkaido and N Honshu).

Descriptive notes

85–105 cm; male 4900–6000 g, female 6800–9000 g; wingspan 195–245 cm. Unmistakable owing to immense size, paddle-shaped wings, blackish-brown plumage... read more


Probably most vocal during pre-laying period; described vocalizations include gull-like calls in... read more


Narrow strips of coast, together with forested valleys along lower reaches of rivers. Always nests... read more

Food and feeding

Principally fish, especially Pacific salmon (Salmonidae), taken alive or dead. Remainder of diet highly varied, but plays a subordinate... read more


Laying generally in second half of Apr and early May (season generally lasts until Sept); varies from region to region, depending largely... read more


Moves S from breeding areas in Oct, returns Mar–Apr; adults take 21–25 days to make... read more

Status and conservation

VULNERABLE. CITES II. Small, regionally declining population. According to BirdLife, global population estimated currently to number c. 4600–5100 individuals, including... read more

Recommended citation

Meyburg, B.U., Kirwan, G.M. & Christie, D.A. (2020). Steller's Sea-eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 29 February 2020).