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Monday, November 7, 2016

O-washi - Japan's Giant Sea Eagle

I was looking up taxidermy in Japan, and stumbled across a very cool-looking website: KOHE’s Bird Taxidermy Studio, a Japanese gent named Ishikawa Kouhei (surname first)—living in Morioka-shi (Morioka City), the the capital city of Iwate-ken (Iwate Prefecture)—who specializes in the art of bird taxidermy.

His website is HERE - and I’d swear you’d think the birds were still alive. Great work.

One of the first birds on the taxidermists website is the Steller’s Sea Eagle… a bird I’d never heard off, and am sure I never saw, but apparently it is found in the coastal areas of northeastern Asia.

Named after naturalist Georg Wilhelm Steller, Steller’s sea eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus) is one of the heaviest eagles in the world up to nine kilograms (20 pounds). The image at the top is by Greg Hume at the Cincinnati Zoo. Awesome photo!

In Japan, the bird is known simply as ō-washi (large eagle or great eagle)… and can be seen mostly on the eastern part of the Japanese islands.

Size: The tarsus (essentially the leg) and tail are relatively short compared to other large eagles at 95–100 millimeters (3.7–3.9 inches) and 320–390 millimeters (13–15 inches) in length, respectively.

I think its most striking feature is its bill… and its regal head - huge!

Perhaps the most noted physical feature of Steller's sea eagle, other than its overall great size, is its extremely large bill and prominent head. The skull is around 14.6 centimeters (5.7 inches) in total length, the culmen (that upper part of the visible beak) is from 62 to 75 millimeters (2.4 to 3.0 inches).

Color-wise, it’s not all that spectacular… but that bill! The bill, eyes and feet are a spectacular yellow.

Its feathers are dark brown and black over most of the body, but it has a pure white of feathers on the lesser and median upper-wing coverts, underwing coverts, thighs, under-tail coverts and tail.

Look at the image below of a Steller’s sea eagle flying with a fish in Hokkaido. "Beautiful plumage" (you have to say that in a Monty Python voice):


Generally-speaking, the bird breeds in the northern climes of the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia, but winters farther south across Asia and Japan.

For food, it favors rivers, fishing for salmon - especially pink salmon and chum salmon, though it will also eat grayling and three-spined stickleback. When it’s time to eat, it can grab hold of fish in its talons up to 15 pounds (6.8 kilograms).

While fish make up about 80 percent of its diet, the Steller’s sea eagle will also eat waterfowl like ducks, geese, swans, cranes, herons and gulls.

There are also recorded prey captures of (are you ready) sable, mink, Arctic fox, ed fox, voles, and even small domestic dogs. When food isn’t as plentiful, carrion will do. Sea lion pups are also food for thought.

If it has meat on it and can lift it, the Steller’s sea eagle will probably eat it.

Nests - IE aeries, are make of twigs and sticks, standing up to 150 centimeters (59 inches) in height and up to 250 centimeters (98 inches) around.

Kind of like breaking in the nest, the male and female eagle will screw themselves silly after construction, which usually occurs in February and March.

Greeny-white eggs are laid in April-May:
  • 78 to 85 millimeters (3.1 to 3.3 inches) in height;
  • 57.5 to 64.5 millimeters (2.26 to 2.54 inches) in width;
  • 160 grams (5.6 ounces) in weight;
  • one to three eggs laid;
  • hatch after 39-45 days;
  • usually only one chick survives, but this is due to predators and even nest collapse… probably from all that rutting.
The bird is considered Vulnerable by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources), and is classified in Japan as a "National Treasure (国宝, kokuhō)".

What’s putting them at risk? The usual stuff… habitat changes by man, industrial pollution, over-fishing that harms their food source…. most of this stuff happening in Russia.

Right now, it is estimated that there are some 5,000 of the Steller’s sea eagle left… and decreasing.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

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