If you are spending your vacation in Gaspé this summer, you may have the chance to observe an imposing bird that is several thousand kilometers from its natural habitat: the emperor eagle, also known as the eagle of Steller. This traveling and solitary raptor from Asia, which had never been seen before in Canada, has been photographed a few times in recent days in the Gaspé sector.

“I never imagined being able to observe this species in Quebec. Sometimes it can be predicted that certain species of birds could be seen here, but this case is confusing. If a person had told me that they observed an emperor eagle, but without having a photo to prove it, I would have thought that this person had a hallucination ”, explains Samuel Denault, a biologist specializing in avian fauna which has already observed about 900 species of birds, including 401 only in Quebec.

A seasoned ornithologist, he traveled from Montreal to Gaspé to try to spot this bird, a gamble that paid off. “I knew that by going to Gaspé, it would be the only chance of my life to see an emperor eagle. Even in its normal range, it would be difficult to observe it. It is a species for which there were few records in the Aleutian Islands, in southwestern Alaska. But for those going to the Aleutians, that would already be a holy grail. And there, it was observed at the tip of the Gaspé, ”he says.

It is a bird that really has a propensity to travel and nothing seems to stop it. Will it go to the Gulf of St. Lawrence? We do not know. He has the ability to fly over water, so that would be possible. But it could also go elsewhere, for example to Nova Scotia, Anticosti or the North Shore.

Samuel Denault has also done like many enthusiasts who left various regions of Quebec and Ontario to get as quickly as possible to the tip of the Gaspé. “It created a stir among bird watchers. If the border with the United States had not been closed, several American bird watchers would have made the trip, ”he says.

The bird in question, an emperor eagle, is an imposing raptor with a wingspan of up to 2.5 m, weighing nearly 8 kg. It is also competing for the place of the biggest raptor in the world with the fierce harpy. “Such a bird does not go unnoticed. He landed on the top of a tree and you could tell he was quite big. We could observe it for two hours. same bald eagles blanche came to scold him. It was exceptional, ”says the photographer Pierre Etcheverry, who took the photo accompanying the text of the Duty.

Far from home

In addition to being larger than the bald eagles that can be seen in Quebec, this bird of prey is mostly found several thousand kilometers from its normal habitat. It is located in northeastern Asia, especially in Russia, in the Kamchatka Peninsula, but also in northern China.

This endangered raptor, whose global population is around 5,000 individuals at most, feeds mainly on salmon. This could explain its presence along the York River, in the Gaspé, over the past few days. It was first seen in Canada in late June in the Restigouche River area, New Brunswick. More surprisingly, this same eagle would have been seen a few months ago in Alaska, but also last spring in the US state of Texas. Photographs have made it possible to determine that it was indeed the same individual, specifies Samuel Denault.

Could this healthy, adult bald eagle stay in Quebec for the long term? Samuel Denault doubts it. “It’s a bird that really has a propensity to travel and nothing seems to stop it. Will it go to the Gulf of St. Lawrence? We do not know. He has the ability to fly over water, so that would be possible. But it could also go elsewhere, for example to Nova Scotia, Anticosti or the North Shore, ”he argues.

One thing is certain, its image now circulates on the many Web forums devoted to ornithology. “All ornithologists in North America are currently watching to try to spot this bird,” says Mr. Denault.

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