【Series】Spirits of the Kamuy landscape (14) Steller's sea eagle, aloof figure swathed in sun backdrop

A Steller's sea eagle rests on a barren Sakhalin fir, swathed in a sun backdrop.

Beyond the flat Notsuke Bay expanse, an oval sun sinks into the horizon. A single Steller’s sea eagle rests on a barren Sakhalin fir.

To make it through the winter, Steller’s sea eagles fly from the Russian Far East to the Notsuke Peninsula in eastern Hokkaido’s Betsukai Town. The Sea of Okhotsk is covered in drift ice, making it impossible to catch fish to eat. This drives them to places along the southern limit of drift ice, like the Nemuro Strait. The eagles are about one meter in length. When they expand their wings, they can reach up to two meters and forty centimeters, making them the largest predatory birds in Japan.

They do their best to survive with limited diet options in the severely cold season, feeding on fish such as salmon who have finished spawning in rivers and assorted small fish left behind by fishermen. Though finding food is a constant challenge, the sight of eagles flying across the sky is still refined and graceful. Their wing color is a deep, dark brown and their shoulder wing joints and tails are pure white, displaying a vivid contrast in coloration. Their yellow beaks and sharp talons are the perfect traits for their majestic eagle heritage.

In mid-March, when patches of water begin to open up in Nemuro Strait’s icy cover, adult birds and young birds nearing maturation start flocking back to their breeding grounds.


Notsuke Bay