Steller's Sea-eagle Haliaeetus pelagicus


Justification of Red List Category
This species has a small, regionally declining population as a result of habitat degradation, pollution, poisoning by lead shot, and over-fishing. It therefore qualifies as Vulnerable.

Population justification
The global population is estimated to number c.4,600-5,100 individuals, including c.1,830-1,900 breeding pairs (M. McGrady et al. in litt. 2012), assumed to be equivalent to c.3,600-3,800 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The species is suspected to be in moderate decline, owing to displacement following habitat conversion in its breeding grounds, and from mortality caused by lead poisoning in inland Japan.

Distribution and population

Haliaeetus pelagicus breeds on the Kamchatka peninsula, the coastal area around the Sea of Okhotsk, the lower reaches of the Amur river (south to the Gorin river) and on northern Sakhalin and Shantar, Russia. A few hundred winter in Kamchatka, the northern Sea of Japan, and the coast of Okhotsk, but most (c.2,000) winter in the southern Kuril islands and Hokkaido, Japan. It is an uncommon winter visitor to north-eastern China, North Korea and South Korea. Declining breeding success has been noted in the inland river populations of Magadan district, Russia, from 1991 to 2009, with a slow increase in the breeding success of coastal populations over the same period, suggesting that they can be considered sink and source populations respectively (Potapov et al. 2010, 2012). Its total population is estimated at c.5,000 mature individuals and declining overall.


It breeds on sea coasts and inland near larger rivers (mostly on lower stretches) or lakes, where there are stands of mature trees. In the Magadan district of Russia, successful breeding pairs along coasts appear to produce more fledged chicks than successful pairs on rivers, and average brood size is larger for coastal pairs (Potapov et al. 2010, 2012). Annual net chick production showed an increase in constantly monitored coastal sites, but a decrease in river sites (Potapov et al. 2012).  During the autumn birds forage along rivers where dead salmon are abundant. During mid-winter, birds in Russia tend to remain on the coast, except some that winter in Kamchatka along inland rivers fed by hot springs and at Lake Kurilskoye (M. McGrady et al. in litt. 2012), while those wintering in Japan mainly stay near freshwater, but c.35% move to mountainous areas where many feed on deer carcasses (Ueta et al. 2003).


In Russia, it is threatened by habitat alteration during the development of hydroelectric power projects, proposed large-scale coastal and offshore developments for the petrochemical industry, and logging for timber. Industrial pollution of rivers and high levels of DDT/DDE, PCBs and heavy metals are further threats. Over-fishing has caused a decline of fish stocks in Russia and Japan which has led to an increasing tendency of birds on Hokkaido to move inland and scavenge on sika deer carcasses left by hunters, exposing them to a risk of lead poisoning through ingestion of lead shot.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II, CMS Appendix I and II. It is legally protected in Russia, Japan, China and South Korea. It is monitored in several protected areas in Russia, including the Magadan State Nature Reserve, Kronotski State Reserve, Lake Krontskoea Wildlife Refuge and Kava Wildlife Refuge (Magadan), the Orel' and Udyl' Wildlife Refuges and Dzhugdzhurskiy, Shantarsky and Komsomol'ski Nature Reserves (Khabarovsk), the Poronayskiy Nature Reserve (Sakhalin), and the Kuril'ski Nature Reserve (Kuril Islands). In Japan, the key wintering grounds on Hokkaido, Shiretoko and Furen-ko are designated as National Wildlife Protection Areas.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys to obtain an up-to-date population estimate. Monitor population trends through regular surveys. Minimise the damaging effects of industrial development in its Russian breeding grounds. In some wintering areas, consider establishing special artificial feeding-sites. Ensure regular sampling of the environment and the species for DDT/DDE, PCBs and other pollutants in Khabarovsk and Magadan, and for lead in Japan. Protect important salmon spawning grounds. Encourage sustainable management of key fish stocks. Preserve potential nest trees in river valleys within 30 km of the sea (M. McGrady et al. in litt. 2012). Establish no disturbance zones in estuaries where conflicts exist between fishers and eagles (M. McGrady et al. in litt. 2012). Develop a captive breeding programme to support future reintroduction and supplementation efforts.


85-94 cm. Huge, unmistakable eagle with massive yellow bill in adults. Adults have blackish-brown plumage with white shoulders and white, wedge-shaped tail. Dark morph lacks white shoulders.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Taylor, J., North, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Haliaeetus pelagicus. Downloaded from on 26/02/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 26/02/2021.