We studied the movements and foraging effort of radio-marked Steller's Eiders (Polysticta stelleri) and Harlequin Ducks (Histrionicus histrionicus) to evaluate habitat quality in an area impacted by industrial activity near Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Foraging effort was relatively low, with Steller's Eiders foraging only 2.7 ?? 0.6 (SE) hours per day and Harlequin Ducks 4.1 ?? 0.5 hours per day. Low-foraging effort during periods of high-energetic demand generally suggests high food availability, and high food availability frequently corresponds with reductions in home range size. However, the winter ranges of Harlequin Ducks did not appear to be smaller than usual, with the mean range size in our study (5.5 ?? 1.1 km2) similar to that reported by previous investigators. The mean size of the winter ranges of Steller's Eiders was similar (5.1 ?? 1.3 km2), but no comparable estimates are available. Eutrophication of the waters near Dutch Harbor caused by seafood processing and municipal sewage effluent may have increased populations of the invertebrate prey of these sea ducks and contributed to their low-foraging effort. The threat of predation by Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) that winter near Dutch Harbor may cause Steller's Eiders and Harlequin Ducks to move further offshore when not foraging, contributing to an increase in range sizes. Thus, the movement patterns and foraging behavior of these ducks likely represent a balance between the cost and benefits of wintering in a human-influenced environment. ?? 2007 Association of Field Ornithologists.
Additional publication details
Movements and foraging effort of Steller's Eiders and Harlequin Ducks wintering near Dutch Harbor, Alaska