Like old friends meeting for lunch, a cinereous vulture and a juvenile Steller’s sea eagle pose for a camera trap set along a game trail in the Sikhote-Alin Reserve in Russia.
A cinereous vulture and a juvenile Steller’s sea eagle met at a carcass
along a game trail in the Sikhote-Alin Nature Reserve. Photo ©SABZ /ANO WCS
While both cinereous vultures and Steller’s sea eagles are winter visitors to this corner of the southern Russian Far East, it’s possible that these two individuals had never encountered a member of the opposite species before. Steller’s sea eagles move south in winter from far northern places in Russia like Magadan and Kamchatka, but are relatively uncommon this far south. Cinereous vultures come east mostly from Mongolia, and are rare this far north along the Sea of Japan with no more than a few dozen records in the reserve since the 1960s.
This might explain the eagle’s submission to the vulture — it had perhaps never seen another raptor so large — so it waited patiently for the vulture to finish eating before moving in to feed. What makes this encounter all the more remarkable is that it was captured completely by chance: when a deer was killed (or simply died) along the game trail, this camera happened to be in the perfect place to document the interactions of this unlikely pair.
The cinereous vulture was enjoying its meal when the Steller’s sea eagle arrived.
Photo ©SABZ /ANO WCS
The Steller’s sea eagle tried to assert dominance, but the cinereous vulture
showed it its place with one wave of the wing. Photo ©SABZ /ANO WCS
The cinereous vulture waddles off to explore the rest of the carcass and allowing
the Steller’s sea eagle to pick over its leftovers. Photo ©SABZ /ANO WCS