Summary of Workshop and Symposia on Steller’s sea eagles held in Japan,

Feb. 1999.


The workshop, organized by The Wild Bird Society of Japan ( WBSJ), was a forum for active Steller’s sea eagle researchers to update colleagues. Researchers identified research that is of regional interest, and that is of particular personal interest. As a group we were able to identify shared research interests, discuss ways in which we can collaborate, offer constructive criticism and comment on past work, and identify research priorities. We also discussed methodology, and how data collection might be standardized. Practicalities such as funding and permit sources were discussed. The symposia were a more popular forum. Apart from public outreach, they served to highlight NEC Corporation’s contribution to the work. The audiences at these symposia included WBSJ members, enthusiasts, conservationists, toxicologists, university staff, and legal professionals. Apart from the time spend in the workshop, we had the opportunity to get together in the evenings and during field trips.

Workshop attendees: Ueta, Nakagawa, Iwata, Fuller, R. Kurosawa, Schempf, Kanai, Tsukamoto, Iwamura, Ladyguin, Masterov, Utekhina, McGrady. Zykov, Potapov, and Lobkov did not attend. Symposia included talks by the workshop attendees and presentations by S. Shiraki (White tailed sea eagles), N. Kurosawa (Lead Poisoning), D. Garcelon (Lead Poisoning).

Roy Dennis of Scottish Highland Foundation was there to advise on white-tailed sea eagle releases. Other participants included J. Minton, and Y. Fukuda.


Feb 9 - 10 workshop
Feb 11 symposium Tokyo
Feb 12 go to Hokkaido and observe wintering site of eagle
Feb 13 observation of wintering site
Feb 14 symposium Hokkaido
Feb 15 observation of wintering site and back to Tokyo


The results of the Symposia presentations are available as abstracts and complete papers will be published as a monograph by The Wild Bird Society of Japan. This Summary emphasizes the decisions made during the Workshop in which we emphasized synthesizing information from the regional study areas (Kamchatka, Magadan, Amur, Hokkaido) and prioritizing future work Projects that integrate the regional work will include providing more information to improve population models being run by Ueta and a GIS model of bird occurrence-habitat associations run by Masterov. The population model requires information on mortality of all age classes of eagles. Expanded use of wing-tags and use of radio tags are envisaged. Probably about 100 wing tags could be put out in Amur every year, and 25 in Magadan. Capture of eagles on Hokkaido appears to have the best chance of success of marking adult eagles. Tagging birds on Hokkaido with PTTs (satellite received transmitters) and conventional tags would provide information on mortality, distribution and habitat associations in the winter. The GIS project is being constructed using data from Amur. Its initial aim is to provide a good estimate of the population size and to delineate breeding areas throughout the breeding range. It is important that information collected in areas outside of Amur supports the model and provides information that enables the model to be exported to those other areas. Of immediate conservation concern is the number of eagles dying from lead poisoning. Research priorities were set to include this relatively new threat to eagles. Also, levels of airborne DDT/DDE and PCBs are apparently high in Khabarovsk and Magadan. This came as something of a surprise, but sampling the environment and eagles for these contaminants is a priority. Like the bald eagle of North America, the yearly movements, survival, and reproduction of Steller’s sea eagles seems to be driven by food supply. Furthermore, the threats to Steller’s sea eagles are largely through loss of adequate prey base and contamination of the prey. Therefore, additional study of the predator-prey relationships is a priority in all the study regions.

Kamchatka - A. Ladygin

Kamchatka is a difficult area in which to work. Most field work requires the use of a helicopter. Despite the difficulties and expense associated with field work in Kamchatka, many interesting and pressing questions about this population exist. It may be that the population of Steller’s sea eagles in Kamchatka are somewhat isolated from other portions of the population. Alexander believes that the focus should be on understanding the year-round relationship between eagles and their main prey in Kamchatka, Pacific salmon. Also, he believes a winter-time survey is a key to understanding the specie’s population dynamics. A winter survey has not been conducted since 1985. Alexander did not think that extensive summertime surveys were cost effective, and that breeding season monitoring should focus on the Kronotsky Biosphere Reserve. We agreed that monitoring of the breeding birds should , for now, be concentrated in the core of the Amur, Magadan, and Kamchatka study areas. Although the use of PTTs would be advantageous, the permitting process would likely be difficult to accomplish for 1999. It was estimated that the survey and a start on the predator-prey work on Kamchatka would cost about $80,000.

Magadan - I. Utekhina, E. Potapov, M. McGrady

The focus in Magadan should be to continue monitoring the population in the core area (~ 80 pairs). The coast should be surveyed from the Koni Penisula east toward the Taiganos Peninsula. An effort should be made to better describe Steller’s eagle diet. DNA analysis of this population would be interesting. It was estimate that the survey and monitoring would cost ~$18,000.

Amur V. Masterov

The main interest in Amur and Sakhalin to finish the first version of the GIS model and test it within Amur and Sakhalin regions, then to see how well it exports to other areas of the breeding range. GIS will allow statistically adequate evaluate of the Steller_s Sea Eagle numbers and population trends in principle habitats. Relational database on birds/nests distribution, habitats, food conditions, number of population and breeding success from different regions will be incorporated in GIS model. For improvement of GIS model of breeding range of SSE will require approximately 25.000 US$

Continued monitoring of the control population and gathering information on demographic structure of population , diet and pollution are important. Total number of active nests for monitoring amount 400. Unicals breeding density allow mark with color wing tags as many as 70-80 flidgings per summer. Last is very important for estimate of mortality rate of different ages. It was valued that work in Amur and Sakhalin would cost $49,000 in the first year

Sakhalin - V. Zykov, V. Masterov

Survey of Sakhalin was identified as important. The absence of basic information on recent state of the Steller's Sea Eagle population and its habitats does not allow to evaluate the impact of oil development on the threatened species and suggest conservation priorities. Starting of oil mining will greatly increase human impact on the coast and coastal waters. Because of potential threat due to pollution related to oil exploration and extraction, a scheme of regular monitoring of eagle's population and pollutant levels was identified as a priority.

South Kuril Islands - V. Zykov

South Kuril Islands are important areas during the early winter for sea eagles. If a winter survey were to be undertaken, this area is important, and effort should be coordinated to cover these areas as well as Hokkaido.

Hokkaido - H. Nakagawa, K. Saito, M. Ueta

The distribution of Steller's eagles on their wintering areas has changed over the last two decades. Previously, eagles concentrated throughout the winter on the east coast of Hokkaido and on the southern Kuril Islands. Now, eagles arrive in these areas in the beginning of the winter, but leave them because of changes in the availability of fish. Many eagles spend the later parts of the winter inland. There they are exposed to lead poisoning from shot Sika deer, which, traditionally are left in the field by Japanese hunters The level of mortality might be very high, and in any case might be high enough to cause a decline in the population over the long-term because adult birds appear most affected. Research and conservation priorities in Hokkaido center on this situation. Research priorities include a better understanding of the relationship between eagles and their food in winter (types of prey that are important, seasonal variation in diet, and foraging behavior). A winter survey is desirable for determining the distribution of birds and for estimating the population of eagles using Hokkaido as winter range. This survey should be conducted in conjunction with the winter survey on Kamchatka. Also, a carefully designed migration count should be established as another method of population monitoring.

Other points made during the workshop:

There is a need to establish a unified data base. This will best serve the needs of the GIS model and future GIS applications that can cover the whole of the range. Furthermore it will facilitate information exchange among all interested parties, and enhance rapid response to potential threats to the birds Ladygin will continue to maintain a web site for the storage of information and exchange of ideas for study design, identifying priorities, etc. Fuller will provide as an example, spreadsheet and database formats for archiving data (based on the 26-year Greenland Peregrine Falcon Survey).There needs to be some standardization of methodology. Historically, workers in each region were constrained by finances, so in some years more data were collected The development of forms would help in standardization. McGrady undertook to provide information on wing tags and numbering systems. This too needs to be standardized, and it is probably best to have a Russian coordinating this.

Trapping of eagles on the wintering grounds provides many opportunities. It is likely to give information that would help define and resolve the problem of lead poisoning from shot deer. It gives us the opportunity to mark birds from non-juvenile cohorts. We concluded that large scale trapping and marking using PTTs and VHF transmitters, as well as wing tags would provide information on movements and mortality. Caught birds could also be blood sampled. Fuller and Schempf will provide literature about using “feeding stations” to capture birds and to study marker loss rates, which are necessary for the most useful methods of population estimation and monitoring. Schempf will provide information about trapping, radio marking, and radio tracking from aircraft.

In the past we have met in various smaller groups, but have not been able to maintain regular contact with one another. McGrady undertook to make regular contact with the members of the group and to summarize these communications. We aim to post information, questions and answers on Ladyguin’s web page. We believe that some information, such as drafts of proposals, etc., might need to be placed on a password only access page.

We agreed to publish the data we have in hand. It seems Masterov might take the lead on breeding information. Utekhina might lead on the diet information. McGrady plans to publish the migration results as soon as the last PTTs stop working. Garcelon aims to publish a synopsis of the lead poisoning situation in Hokkaido in Conservation Biology. All information presented at the Symposia in Tokyo and Hokkaido will be published as a monograph/proceedings by The Wild Bird Society of Japan. Ueta and McGrady will edit the monograph.

It was agreed that we need to facilitate working through the proper channels.. We must have all the required permissions to use transmitters and wing tags. This has been a big bureaucratic hill to climb , therefore we need to establish efficient working relationships with the various authorities. We do not want to create our own bureaucracy, but we need to be more coordinated in our application procedures. Ultimately that should save time and effort. Reviving the idea of the Committee for the Study of Steller’s eagle is a possibility.

The Workshop and Symposia provided an exceptional opportunity for colleagues to review research and management to date, to identify additional needed work, and to prioritize future efforts to learn about and to conserve the Steller’s sea eagle and its ecosystems. In general there are little or no funds available in Russia to do the work. It is necessary that good proposals be developed based on each of the regions ( Hokkaido, Amur, Magadan, and Kamchatka) , but fostering a coordinated effort, so that cooperators outside Russia can make a concerted effort to raise funds. The participants have embarked on the tasks required to develop these proposals.