Chris Ryer of Cumberland looks through binoculars on a bridge on Five Islands Road in Arrowsic on Feb. 5 while waiting to get a look at a Steller’s sea eagle, which had been sighted Saturday on Back River. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

A rare Steller’s sea eagle is continuing to hang around the Georgetown-Arrowsic town lines, with sightings every day in the last week, said Maine Audubon staff naturalist Doug Hitchcox.

“We’ve had no sightings yet today,” Hitchcox said Sunday morning. “But it’s been seen every day for the past week. It’s out there somewhere.”

On Saturday it was perched north of the Back River bridge. It flew off at 10 a.m., then was seen on the marsh visible from Flying Point preserve. It stayed for a couple of hours, moving back to what seems to be its favorite spot, again perched on trees by the bridge.

It first made an appearance in Maine late in December 2021, then on Feb. 5 it was seen again, both times in the Georgetown vicinity. Bird enthusiasts flocked from all over New England to get a glimpse of the rare bird. Experts say there are only about 5,000 Steller’s sea eagles worldwide.

Part of the thrill of seeing the bird is that it’s from so far away and so rare, plus its size and coloring. The birds can weigh up to 20 pounds with an eight-foot wingspan, much larger than a bald eagle. It is brown with white patches on its wings and has a bright yellow-orange beak.

“This is such a rare bird,” Hitchcox said. They breed only in far east Russia. Someone who wants to see one of these birds in the wild normally would have to travel several continents.


“Now we have one here who’s thousands of miles off course,” he said. “I don’t think it’s an overstatement for this to be a once-in-a-lifetime event, except for that there’s been two.”

The Steller’s sea eagle on a tree in Boothbay Harbor seen by Gov. Janet Mills, Maine Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Judy Camuso and Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Pat Keliher on Jan. 14. Caitlin Keliher photo

Hitchcox calls the Steller’s sea eagle “a spark bird” because it is bringing people out to see it and sparking interest in birds. Since the eagle first visited Maine last winter, Hitchcox said he’s lost count of how many new faces he’s seen during bird festivals and on the bird walks he leads. Many have told him that learning about the rare eagle led them to birding.

“Last winter it stayed until around March 5,” Hitchcox said. People are asking, “‘How long do we have it around?'” Like last year, the eagle could hang around for several weeks. But it’s hard to say, he said, adding it can leave at any time. “They have wings.”

The bird seems to like it here, though, and one reason could be that the eating is good.

Nearby Merrymeeting Bay, where several water bodies converge, offers good fishing for native eagles, Hitchcox said. One day last week, the Steller’s sea eagle was seen eating a dead goose.

“It wasn’t about to pass up a free meal,” Hitchcox said. Like Maine’s bald eagles, the Steller’s sea eagle is a scavenger.


More people wanting to learn about birds is encouraging, Hitchcox said.

“Birds are literally the canary in coal mines that are telling us so much about the environment. The more people are tuned into birds, the more they can appreciate what impacts are going on the environment around us. It’s a time we all need to be thinking about our planet more.”



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