COURTESY BRENDA ZAUN / U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICE
This white-tailed eagle, photographed March 5, found its way to Kauai.
Eagle becomes Kauai’s most-sought visitor
A lone white-tailed eagle that may have flown from as far as Europe or Asia was first spotted on Kauai in late December and seems to be sticking around the Garden Island.
There have been scattered sightings this month, after no confirmed sightings of the bird since January, said Brenda Zaun, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Zaun snapped the best-known photos of the bird so far on March 5, in the Crater Hill area of the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge on Kauai's North Shore.
Zaun said the eagle first flew below her as she stood on a cliff, then caught an updraft and passed by again at a higher elevation.
"I saw it three times that week. I've not seen it since," Zaun said yesterday.
But others have, some as recently as last week on Kauai's South Shore. A group of birders reported the sighting to Zaun and showed her photos.
"There are definitely birders coming over from the other islands looking for this bird," Zaun said. "And we've had quite a few phone calls."
The bird, also known as the sea eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), has a wingspan of more than 8 feet, said the Great Britain Forestry Commission.
The one on Kauai has killed and eaten at least three adult Laysan albatross during its stay, said Zaun, whose job includes keeping tabs on the Kauai albatross population.
Zaun hopes the eagle won't dine on too many more albatross, but her agency has no plans to try to control it, she said, "because in the big picture, there are a lot more Laysan albatross in this world than white-tailed eagle."
Many migrating birds pass through Hawaii, but the eagle is unusual enough to merit a write-up in a scientific journal, Zaun said.
Kauai has been home to at least two other eagles over the years, Zaun said: a golden eagle that lived there 17 years until its death in 1984 and a prehistoric specimen of the white-tailed eagle that was dated to 3,300 years ago.