Far from home, a big, rare sea eagle finds devoted fans on Maine’s coast

A photo of the rare Steller's sea eagle along the coast of Maine on Dec. 31, 2021.

The Steller’s sea eagle on Dec. 31. Birders have been chasing the rare eagle on the coast of Maine. (Courtesy of Linda Cunningham)

Since late December, a rare, wayward eagle native to Russia and Japan has taken up residence along Maine’s Midcoast near Boothbay Harbor.

The Steller’s sea eagle is one of the largest raptors in the world, weighing up to 20 pounds with an eight-foot wingspan. There are only about 4,000 of them left, and the chance to see one has captivated Mainers and birders from around the country.

John Putrino isn’t an avid birder but he is a wildlife photographer. So, when he got a tip that the Steller’s sea eagle had been spotted in his adopted hometown of Boothbay, he went out in search of it during a recent snowstorm.

“It’s right there! It’s right there! Oh. My. God. Oh my God! camera clicking,” he said in one video livestreamed on his Instagram account “Manbythesea.”

Putrino says he never expected to see the bird or to photograph it.

He’s just one of hundreds of people who’ve been flocking to Maine’s Midcoast to get a glimpse of the unusual bird that makes a bald eagle look small.

Mary and Kye Jenkins of Baltimore had planned on taking a trip to the Caribbean but when their COVID-19 test results came back too late to board their flight, they needed to improvise. Instead, they hit the road.

“Since we’re birders, we were in Newark, we decided to come up here and try to find this bird,” Mary Jenkins says.

This is what’s known in the birdwatching world as “chasing.” The Jenkins are constantly on the lookout for rare species and will go out of their way to see them. They’ve been searching for the Steller’s sea eagle for three days.

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