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Rare Steller's sea eagle, native to eastern Asia, returns to Maine

One of the world's rarest raptors has again been spotted in Maine's midcoast.

GEORGETOWN, Maine — A bird so rare there are believed to be only 4,000 in the world has returned to Maine after it spent roughly three months in the state last year.

The Steller's sea eagle, native to eastern Asia, was first seen in Maine right before the start of 2022 and immediately started attracting crowds of enthusiastic birdwatchers from all over the United States and Canada.

The bird stayed in Maine until early March 2022, when it moved north to Newfoundland. The last sighting had been in northeast New Brunswick in November 2022 before the bird showed back up in Maine on Feb. 4, 2023, according to Maine Audubon.

Maine Audubon reported that the Steller’s sea eagle "apparently roosted in the pines off the north side of the Back River bridge" connecting Georgetown and Arrowsic on Feb. 5.

"Viewing from the Rt 127 bridge presents major safety issues (both for viewers and for drivers)," Maine Audubon wrote on its website. "Police stopped by today and needed to remind people to park completely off the road, and stay out of the road. Be sure to keep to one side of the bridge, and make safety the number one priority."

The Steller's sea eagle is among the rarest raptors in the world. Their breeding grounds are in far eastern Russia, but each winter, many of the birds migrate from their breeding grounds to Japan, Korea, and China. 

Maine Audubon naturalist Doug Hitchcox told NEWS CENTER Maine in March 2022 that it's not surprising that of all the places in Maine, the Steller's landed in the midcoast, where many raptors, especially bald eagles, have been thriving for years because of the plentiful food found there. 

While it is unknown why the Steller's sea eagle would be so far from home, Hitchcox said one possible theory is it's prospecting, looking for a fertile habitat where it could start a satellite community.

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