We described characteristics of the wintering area used by Spectacled Eiders (Somateria fischeri) in the Bering Sea, Alaska, and evaluated these characteristics in relation to long-term population trends. Remoteness, limited daylight, and extreme weather conditions precluded direct observations, so we derived the location of the wintering area from satellite telemetry, ice conditions from remotely sensed data, weather conditions from archived data sets, and benthic communities from the literature. Based on analyses of two indices spanning 1957-2002 and 1988-2002, we identified no single environmental parameter that explained the precipitous decline in nesting populations in western Alaska. In general, we found that the number of days with extreme sea ice in winter, extreme winds, and winds in spring explained the greatest variability in annual indices. These analyses support the conclusion that annual population estimates on the breeding grounds can be negatively impacted by extended periods of dense sea-ice concentration and weather during the previous winter. Examination of population indices did not support the hypothesis that changes in benthic community on the wintering grounds have contributed to the decline or inhibited the recovery of the Spectacled Eider breeding population in western Alaska.
Additional publication details
Winter ecology of spectacled eiders: Environmental characteristics and population change