Seabird, raptor compete for bracket challenge title

bracket challenge
A Blue-footed Booby (left) dances on an island in the Galapagos. Photo by Femke van den Bos/Shutterstock. A Steller’s Sea-Eagle (right) stands on the snow on Hokkaido Island, Japan. Photo by Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock

We’re down to two! The last two species standing in our 2022 Most Wanted Birds bracket challenge are the Blue-footed Booby and Steller’s Sea-Eagle.

In the previous round, participants in our just-for-fun poll selected Blue-footed Booby over Green Jay by a vote 58%-42%. And they preferred Steller’s Sea-Eagle over Violet-crowned Hummingbird by 74%-26%.

The booby and sea-eagle are both Code 4 species on the American Birding Association’s bird checklist. Code 4 birds are defined as:

“Species not recorded annually in the ABA Area, but with six or more total records—including three or more in the past 30 years—reflecting some pattern of occurrence.”

The ABA Area is “essentially North America north of Mexico plus the Hawaiian Islands.”

Steller’s Sea-Eagle

Since August 2020, a wayward individual Steller’s Sea-Eagle wound its way from central Alaska to the central coast of Maine, where it was last observed on March 5. Untold numbers of birders spotted the eagle during its time in New England.

In 2021, Steller’s Sea-Eagle was reported at four sites in Alaska, according to eBird records: Shemya Island in the far western Aleutians (June 2-3); St. Paul Island in the Pribilofs (various dates from May 14 to July 11); St. George Island in the Pribilofs (August 9); and at King Salmon-Paradise Point on the mainland (November 6).


The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the sea-eagle as vulnerable on its Red List. Its population is estimated at 3,600-4,670 mature birds.

Blue-footed Booby

In 2013, BirdWatching conducted a similar survey of readers, asking which birds they most wanted to see, and Blue-footed Booby came in 10th on that list. The species occurs from the Baja California Peninsula of Mexico to central Chile, and it is one of the many wildlife attractions to the Galapagos Islands.

Blue-footed Boobies have been seen in recent years along the California coast and as far north as Cape Meares State Park on the Oregon coast. Vagrants have also turned up inland – in Utah and eastern New Mexico. The only U.S. record in the last 12 months, according to eBird, was a group of up to three boobies that were on Santa Barbara Island, southwest of Los Angeles, from July to early October 2021.

The IUCN lists the booby in the “least concern” category and estimates the population to be 90,000 birds. It’s worth noting, however, that in 2014, researchers reported that the subspecies that lives on the Galapagos Islands had declined significantly and had not had a successful breeding season since 1997.


How to vote

In the final round of our bracket challenge, let us know which of the two species you want to see more by voting today or early Wednesday on one of our social media pages: Twitter, or our Facebook or Instagram Stories.

We’ll announce the winner this Friday. Want to be the first to know who wins? Sign up for our e-newsletter

Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall is the editor of BirdWatching magazine and You can reach him at [email protected].

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