The at-sea distribution of the threatened Spectacled Eider (Somateria fischeri) has remained largely undocumented. We identified migration corridors, staging and molting areas, and wintering areas of adult Spectacled Eiders using implanted satellite-transmitters in birds from each of the three extant breeding grounds (North Slope and Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta in Alaska and arctic Russia). Based on transmitter locations, we conducted aerial surveys to provide visual confirmation of eider flocks and to estimate numbers of birds. We identified two principal molting and staging areas off coastal Alaska (Ledyard Bay and eastern Norton Sound) and two off coastal Russia (Mechigmenskiy Bay on the eastern Chukotka Peninsula, and the area between the Indigirka and Kolyma deltas in the Republic of Sakha). We estimated that >10,000 birds molt and stage in monospecific flocks at Mechigmenskiy and Ledyard bays, and several thousand molt and stage in eastern Norton Sound. We further identified eastern Norton Sound as the principal molting and staging area for females nesting on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, and Ledyard Bay and Mechigmenskiy Bay as the principal molting and staging areas for females nesting on the North Slope. Males marked at all three breeding grounds molt and stage in Mechigmenskiy Bay, Ledyard Bay, and the Indigirka-Kolyma delta region. Males from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta molt and stage mainly at Mechigmenskiy Bay. Equal numbers of males from the North Slope molt and stage at all three areas, and most males from arctic Russia molt and stage at the Indigirka-Kolyma delta region. Postbreeding migration corridors were offshore in the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort seas. In winter, eiders were in the Bering Sea south of St. Lawrence Island. Our estimates from surveys in late winter and early spring suggest that at least 333,000 birds winter in single-species flocks in the pack ice in the Bering Sea.
Additional publication details
At-sea distribution of Spectacled Eiders: A 120-year-old mystery resolved