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Lost bird sighting frenzy brings in the tourists

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It was a frigid January morning when biologist and avid birder Liz Push finally met Stella the Steller’s sea eagle. Pusch had traveled all the way from her mountain in Stone, Georgia, and for her once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to catch a glimpse of this bird, she parked her car on the side of the road near Boothbay, Maine, where Stella had been spotted. It turns out that she is in the crowd. “At least she had 150,” she says Pusch. “It was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.”

With a bright tangerine beak, striking white shoulders, and a wingspan the width of a king-size bed, Stella is a minor bird celebrity. Steller’s sea eagles are typically found around the Sea of ​​Okhotsk and the Bering Sea, China, Korea, Japan and eastern Russia, where populations are declining and home to around 4,000 birds. Stella, whose gender is still unknown, was first spotted in Alaska in August 2020 before moving to Texas in March 2021 and eastern Canada later that year.The media caught wind of an amazing journey, Facebook groups and twitter account Pop-up to track Stella sightings. By December 2021, the sea eagles had settled in Massachusetts and Maine, about 11,000 kilometers from home, and Push decided to make the trip to see the birds. In April 2022, months after Push’s visit, Stella traveled north to Nova Scotia and was most recently sighted in Newfoundland.

It is a fairly common occurrence for birds for sale to stray out of range. Hurricanes and other extreme weather events can throw some birds off course, while others may simply be born with an unstable GPS. Alternatively, some scientists believe that wandering birds like Stella could be pioneer species exploring new habitats. Regardless of the reason birds get lost, wanderers can be an amazing source of income for local economies, as bird enthusiasts flock for the chance to add a dedicated bird to their homes. Bird Lifetime ListIn a yet-to-be-published study, Southern Illinois University ecologist Brent Pease found that more than 2,000 people traveled to Maine and Massachusetts to see Stella in the month the sea eagles were there, and 50 We estimate that we spent close to $10,000. “I have never seen a bird call that loud,” he says.

To assess the economic impact of sea eagles, Pease published a survey asking birders where they came from, how much they spent to see Stella and whether they posted sightings online. Did. Like Push, most people who came to see the bird traveled from outside their home zip code, some from as far away as California and Washington. On average, study participants spent $181 on a push trip, including airfare, which cost him $1,500.

She says the cost was worth it. “I was so excited to see such a beautiful view so close. It was just amazing.”

Corey T. Callaghan, a biologist at the German Center for Integrated Biodiversity Research who studies roaming birds, said it’s no surprise that the bird makes so much money given Stella’s popularity. says.

Callahan previously researched Lost Black-headed Warbler In Pennsylvania, I made $223,000 in just over two months and was a vagrant aleutian tern New South Wales, Australia, produced similar volumes over a four-month period.

Migratory birds can emerge in such unpredictable ways that their economic impact can be difficult to assess, but giving a monetary value to wildlife can help politicians and policymakers to invest in conservation. Callahan says it could help you make decisions. When it comes to nature, “these studies clearly show that we appreciate scarcity,” he says.

Beyond the initial rush of birders packed with restaurants and lodging, the attraction of roaming birds could turn bird lovers into repeat visitors, along with long-term financial benefits. The transformed sea eagles have attracted visitors they had never seen before.

Push was mesmerized by the location. “I go back to that part of Maine just for vacation,” he says Pusch. “If I hadn’t gone bird watching, I’m not sure I would have picked the spot off the top of my head.”

This article first appeared on hakai magazine, Republished here with permission.

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