White-tailed Eagle appearance in California stuns US birders


A White-tailed Eagle photographed in California has stunned American birders, with the huge raptor a major rarity in the United States.

The bird was seen flying past Battery Godfrey – an old gun battery on the northern edge of San Francisco near Golden Gate Bridge – at 12.58 pm on Friday 15 March 2024 by a small group of birders undertaking a raptor migration watch.

According to the eBird checklist by observers Hugh Cotter and Keith Maley, the eagle flew over the Battery crossing north into Marin just west of the Golden Gate Bridge, having arrived from the south-east. 


Mega raptor migration

The birders described their seven-hour vigil as one of 'excellent raptor movement on the second day of strong north-east winds' and, among no fewer than 11 species of bird of prey logged, they counted 26 Turkey Vultures, 13 Cooper's Hawks, six Bald Eagles and 24 Red-tailed Hawks.

White-tailed Eagle is a major rarity in America, but is exceptionally so in the lower 48 states. There are thought to be more than 20 records from Alaska, but elsewhere in the country there may be as few as two – one from a boat off Massachusetts in 1914 and one from a raptor watch in New York in 1993 (which wasn't accepted by the state's rarities committee).

This remarkable record comes a little over two years after a Steller's Sea Eagle was seen by hundreds of birders in Massachusetts in 20 December 2021, having originally been observed there several days previously.