Published On: Sun, Oct 3rd, 2021

A Steller’s sea eagle escaped from the National Aviary in Pittsburgh and is still at large


A Steller’s sea eagle escaped from its enclosure at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh last Saturday, and despite the valiant efforts of the Aviary staff, and numerous sightings in the local neighborhood posted to social media, Kodiak —Kody to his friends— is still on the loose and we are all a little worried about him, to be perfectly honest.

This is a bird that would be difficult to miss: he’s large (although in Pittsburgh we probably wouldn’t call him “giant” because “Giant Eagle” is a grocery store chain here), with a yellow beak, white tail and white feathers on the tops of his wings. He’s bigger than a bald eagle, and has a wingspan of about six feet. Kody has been spotted in and around the Pittsburgh neighborhood where the Aviary is located, which seems like a good thing. But he’s been tough to catch because you can’t just toss a net over him and call it a day, as licensed falconer Richard Lawson told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; a specialized (and obviously humane) trap is going to be necessary.

The Steller’s sea eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus) typically weighs between 13 and 20 pounds, and stands about four feet tall. It has no natural predators, according to the Aviary, but Kody has lived in captivity for 15 of his 16 years, so he may be a little rusty on the whole hunting/prey thing. Steller’s sea eagles eat fish, and more fish, “scavenged mammals” (ew) and even other birds “when fish is in short supply.” And in case you wondered, they’re named for German naturalist Georg W. Steller, who encountered the birds on a visit to Alaska in 1741.

The Aviary has been posting updates to social media and getting tantalizingly close to retrieving Kody, but he’s eluded them so far. I was half-hoping Kody might make some kind of majestic appearance at the Steelers’ game last Sunday since Heinz Field is not far from the Aviary, and the team was at home against the Bengals (we’re not going to talk about that game today, though). Alas, he did not.

On Thursday, the Aviary’s animal care experts camped out to monitor his roost in a high tree in the North Park area of the city, and they confirmed he was in good condition. They tried to entice him with some food, but he didn’t come down. But look at this handsome, handsome boi:

Many people— including me, before I moved to Pittsburgh a thousand years ago— don’t know what a hidden gem the National Aviary is, or, that it’s in Pittsburgh. Their penguins are usually the big celebrities (hi, this is Pittsburgh), but they also have very cute— as well as very large—owls, eagles, flamingos, falcons, and canaries among other birds. You can sign up for educational “animal encounters” with many of the birds— I recall visiting when my son was little; we sat in a large auditorium where some birds of prey were flying around, and we got like a popsicle stick with some food on it (I would prefer not to think about what the food actually was) and you’d hold it up until one of the birds swooped down to eat it. Extremely awesome.

If you are in Pittsburgh and see Kody call the National Aviary at 412-323-7235. Don’t try to approach him, you run the risk of scaring him off. And when the Aviary team shows up, stay out of their way. They want to get him safely home.



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