Species of Hokkaido, Japan - The White-tailed Eagle
Jun 13, 2020 | By: Japan Dreamscapes Photography Tours
Enjoying a Hokkaido Photo Workshop means knowing some of the species you'll photograph. Today's focus is the White-tailed Eagle!
This mature white-tailed eagle, I photographed while leading my annual Hokkaido Photo Tour. The White-Tailed Eagle is also known as the white-tailed sea eagle, gray eagle, Eurasian sea eagle, which is one of the giant birds of prey in the family Accipitridae which includes other raptors such as hawks, kites, and harriers. The White-Tailed can be photographed all year round in Hokkaido, Japan. During harsh winters in Hokkaido, they co-exist with their bigger cousin The Steller’s Sea Eagle, and they can often be photographed in severe aerial combat or on a land fights, sometimes it's 2 or 3 Steller's Sea Eagles against one White-tailed eagle, they especially rumble when fish is on the table. These beautiful majestic raptors are known as the fourth largest eagle in the world; they are the only species known to be more massive in bulk then the Steller’s Sea Eagle, the Harpy Eagle, and the Philippine Eagle. These eagles measure from 65-95cm in length with a wingspan of 170cm to 260cm or about 5ft 5 to 8ft 5 inches. It is said this raptor has the largest wingspan of any living eagle. The male and female are similar in coloring and appearance, the accurate way to tell them apart is by tarsus width and depth and bill depth, but this is next to impossible unless they are captive or captured then released with tracking devices on their legs. I usually tell them apart by their size in which females are generally about 30% heavier and about 15% greater in linear dimensions.
The adult white-tailed eagle is greyish mid-brown colored overall. The plumage is relatively uniform over most of the body and the wings, but the wing coverts are generally paler; the rest of their plumage is usually softer looking from the head, neck, and upper breast is often a desert dawn hue. But colors of the white-tailed eagle can easily range from bright, vibrant, beautiful colors to washed out and spotted. Their bill is massive and can be vibrant orange to dull in color, and it is razor-sharp to rip apart their prey in a hurry, and they are an aggressive bird. And when fishing is terrible, they have been known to prey on rodents, young deer even family pets, young children in Hokkaido are closely watched when outside in areas the birds are plentiful from my over 25 years experience in Japan from Nemuero to Rausu Hokkaido. Once in Hokkaido, during an annual birding festival just outside of Nemuro, myself and other photographers photographed a videographer being attacked, the bird was lifting him up by his shoulders with its talons lodged firmly into his skin, muscle and bone; he spent three days in the hospital, his wounds took months to heal. The males call is Kyi-Kyi-Kyi-Kli-Kliek-Yak with the head thrown back, and the last call normally ends with a lower Ko-Ko-Ko, the female has a similar call but deeper.
I photographed this White Tailed Sea Eagle in February 2019; we were in Zodiac boats, off the pacific coastline of Rausu Japan.