ERN is often the crossword answer for the clue
[Directional suffix] or [Sea eagle]

ERN crossword answer sea eagle clue stellar's bald fish direction suffix
You can call him ERN–or ERNE. Image via Matthias

Sure, as the [Directional suffix] -ern, ERN earns some amusing clues, like [West ender?], [Direction follower?], and [South side?].

And even if it sends solvers the wrong way as a [Midwestern terminal?], ERN won’t get lost since [It follows directions].

[Southwest terminal?]

Todd Gross, New York Times, October 14, 2012

Yet solvers with a bit of patience will sooner or later catch sight of a much more interesting ERN: crossword puzzles’ infamous [Sea eagle]. The bird’s name is more commonly spelled ERNE, but ERN is seen more frequently as an answer.

ERN crossword answer sea eagle clue stellar's direction suffix
A Steller’s Sea Eagle preparing to snatch a fish from the waters of the Nemuro Strait, near Rausu, Hokkaido, image via Saschathegerman,

A sea eagle–what’s that?, I wondered when I first came across it. And why, when I googled it, did pictures of bald eagle swoop into view?

Ernes, it turns out, are any of ten species of [Fish-eating raptor] comprising the genus Haliaeetus, one of which is including the BALDEAGLE [Quarterback]. Sea eagles, also called fish eagles, are so defined because they feed heavily on fish.

[Kin of a bonebreaker]

Rhonda Kraus, New York Times, February 1, 1986

I had no idea that our national animal is 2/3 pescitarian. I’d heard that they were basically scavengers, but that seems not to be the case.

(Apparently, it’s also not the case that Franklin wanted the national bird to be turkey. Find informative posts about it at the National Wildlife Federation, The Franklin Institute, and the National Constitution Center–the latter noting that Franklin actually advocated for the rattlesnake as our national animal.)

Once nearly extinct, bald eagles have benefited from conservationists’ work and are again a common site in the States. But ERNE, which once regularly ALIT [Touched down] on grids’ ledges, has itself [Landed] on crosswords’ endangered answer list.

ERN remains in frequent use, often spotted as [Coastal flier], [White-tailed eagle], and [Coastal raptor].

That makes the gird something on an AERIE [Eagle’s home], another bit of classic crosswordese referring to a raptor’s [High nest].

[Relative of a kite]

Kevin G. Der, New York Times, May 24, 2015

ERN crossword answer sea eagle clue stellar's direction suffix
A Steller’s Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus) in Rausu, Hokkaido, Japan, image via Michael Pinczolits

The erne can still be seen, in a way, in ARNE, a Scandinavian name which, like Arnold, means “eagle.” While references to the [Obama education secretary Duncan] may graduate out of puzzles soon, [Composer Thomas] Arne, the [“Rule Britannia” composer] and [“A-Hunting We Will Go” composer], probably will continue to keep solvers hunting for the answer.