More Eyewitness Descriptions of Large Birds

October 25, 2002 - The following e-mails were sent to me after my news update on COAST TO COAST radio on October 21, about the very large, dark brown bird seen flying by dozens of eyewitnesses, including pilots, in the Manokotak and Dillingham towns north of the Alaska Peninsula since the end of September 2002. See Earthfiles report.

I interviewed Prof. Douglas Causey, Ph.D., Senior Vertebrate Biologist, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. He doubted the estimated 14-foot-wingspan that residents described and suggested the answer could be a bird so rare it hasn't been officially observed for nearly fifty years: the sub-species of the Steller's Sea Eagle known as Haliaeetus pelagicus niger. Niger is Latin for "dark." Eyewitnesses stressed that the large bird seen in Alaska is all dark in color. The Niger Sea Eagle is all dark except for its white tail; the Steller's Sea Eagle has white shoulders and tail. Neither species of sea eagle reaches a 14-foot-wingspan. In this report, I have included for comparison photographs and information about other modern birds that have large wingspans.

Dark "morph" or sub-species of the Steller's Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus niger). Tail feathers are white and adult wingspans reach 4 to 5 feet. Since the bird has not been officially seen for half a century, it has been considered extinct. Drawing from Handbook of Birds of the World, Edited by Josep Del Hoyo.
Dark "morph" or sub-species of the Steller's Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus niger). Tail feathers are white and adult wingspans reach 4 to 5 feet. Since the bird has not been officially seen for half a century, it has been considered extinct. Drawing from Handbook of Birds of the World, Edited by Josep Del Hoyo.

 

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