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Steller's Sea Eagle Sighted Along Taunton River in Massachusetts

Wildlife officials in Massachusetts are reporting a rare sighting of an eagle in the state that is thousands of miles away from its native territory.

Steller's Sea Eagle Sighted Along Taunton River in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife (MassWildlife) posted on Facebook that a Steller's sea eagle was spotted last week along the Taunton River, which starts in Bridgewater, runs through Taunton and ends in Fall River.

David Ennis told NewsCenter 5's Peter Eliopoulos that he spotted the bird along the Taunton River in Berkley on Dec. 10 and captured photographs and video of it. Ennis said he did not know what species of bird it was until he Googled it.

The Steller's sea eagle is one of the largest raptors in the world, weighing up to 20 pounds with a wingspan of up to eight feet, and is native to Asia — specifically China, Japan, Korea and eastern Russia.

“It's really phenomenal. Before this bird, there had never been a case of this species making it to this area of the world,” said Andrew Vitz, the state’s ornithologist. “So how it did that, you know, there's a lot of points in between that we just don't know about.”

People have been traveling to southeastern Massachusetts from all over New England, New York and Pennsylvania to try and catch a glimpse of the sea eagle.

“It's a rare bird, even in its native habitat, and to be here is just completely inexplicable,” said Timothy Gotsick, of Nashua, New Hampshire.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, the Steller's sea eagle is considered vulnerable, meaning it is at high risk of extinction in the wild. The IUCN estimates the species has a total population of between 4,000 and 5,000.

MassWildlife officials said the Steller's sea eagle that was seen along the Taunton River is likely the same one that has been spotted across North America over the past 16 months. This is because the species of bird has a distinctive, yellow beak; unique white patterning on its wings; and large, white tail feathers that are easily identifiable.

Vitz said the sea eagle appears healthy and noted that it is eating, so MassWildlife has no plans to trap or tag it.