Arctic Loon (Gavia arctica)

February 9, 2009 by  
Filed under

The Arctic Loon (Gavia arctica) is of medium size, between 56 – 71 centimeters in length, with the male and female being similar in plumage. The males are just slightly larger than the females. The Arctic Loon has gray coloring on its head and nape, and its back is black with white spots. The neck is striped in black and white with white flanks and it is often difficult to see, but there is either green or purple plumaged on the throat. Its bill is straight, almost dagger-like, and it has black eyes.

Being a coastal bird, the Arctic Loon can be found near the ocean or open lakes and will often be seen around tundra lakes in the summer. It feeds on aquatic foods such as crustaceans, fish and mollusks and is known to eat certain amphibians. They are often seen diving into the water, from the surface, to catch small fish. They will also fly to bigger waters, to find food. The Arctic Loons are migratory birds, and will migrate to the coastal areas around western Alaska for breeding. Arctic Loons are very awkward on land, and take to flight only from the water.

During the breeding season, Arctic Loons will construct their nests on the ground, and use soil and plants as building material. The female can lay up to three eggs, that vary between an olive green to brown color, and have black spots. Both parents assist in the incubation period of the eggs, which is approximately 28 to 30 days.

The Loon species has been divided into two categories, namely the Artic Loon and the Pacific Loon. Both are very similar in plumage, and were therefore considered to be the same specie for many years. The difference can be seen on their throats. Arctic Loons have a greenish plumage and the Arctic Loons that originate from Eurasia have a purple plumage, which is the similar purple color that can be seen on the Pacific Loons. It was also not unusual to see Pacific and Arctic Loons, working together off Japans’ coast, in order to secure food during the winter months. The fishermen used to call them heaven’s messengers, as they would locate the schools of fish, making life a lot easier for the fisherman. Due to the decline in the loon population, these amazing coastal birds no longer practice this survival skill. It is also believed that the change in fishing methods have also influenced this practice.

Steller’s Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus)

February 9, 2009 by  
Filed under

The Steller’s Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus) is one of the biggest eagles in the world. It is 107 – 114 centimeters in length, with an impressive wingspan of 218 to 249 centimeters. It is predominantly black in color with white plumage on the forehead, legs, tail and shoulders. The bill is orange in color, and is very big and heavy. Both the male and female Steller’s Sea Eagle are similar in appearance. The female is a slightly larger than the male. Its large wingspan enables the eagles to glide for most of their flight, alternating with several deep and powerful strokes between glides.

This Sea Eagle can be found in the northeastern areas of Siberia and in the northern regions of Korea and Japan. During the winter months, the Steller’s Sea Eagle will move towards Korea and Japan and is sometimes seen in Beijing and even along the Chinese coast. The eagles tend to remain as close to the ocean as possible, and when located inland, along rivers, it is usually still within close proximity of the coast.

Steller’s Sea Eagles feed mainly on fish but will occasionally also catch birds, ducks and smaller mammals such as hares and seal pups. These powerful birds of prey have also been seen taking arctic foxes and sables. They are capable hunters on water and land and will take molluscs, crabs and washed up fish from the shore. Very little effort is put into hunting, as not many prey stand much of a chance fending off such an incredibly strong hunter.

Mating starts in the month of March. These Sea Eagles construct huge nests approximately 12 feet thick and 8 feet across. The nests are re-used every year and are built on top of the trees and can be as high up as 100 feet. Mountain cliffs can also be used for nesting. The female eagle will incubate the eggs for a period of 38 to 45 days. She lays between one to three eggs that are laid in April or May. The chick will usually hatch in July and fledge the nest in August or September. The entire cycle from mating to the fledging of the chicks takes six months. Complete adult plumage of the Steller’s Sea Eagle will only be acquired at the age of four.