Individual variation in staging and timing of spring migration of Pacific common eiders in Alaska




Timing of migration and characterization of migration patterns of birds are usually based on dates of peak migration to and from staging, wintering, and breeding areas used by the bulk of a species. For Pacific common eiders (Somateria mollissima v-nigrum), as well as other species, the timing of migration into and through the Beaufort Sea is based on counts of birds past land or ice-based sites and radar observations, and arrival dates to colonies determined by influxes of birds seen by ground observers. With the continued and proposed development of nearshore and offshore waters of the Beaufort Sea, there is an expanding need to manage local populations. Observations of individual Pacific common eiders can provide a more complete understanding of local populations as well as variability among populations. This study was designed to determine factors influencing migration patterns of individuals nesting in the western Beaufort Sea from their wintering locations along the Chukotka Peninsula, through the eastern Chukchi and western Beaufort seas, until their arrival to their nesting area. The Simpson Lagoon/Maguire Island nesting colonies are 1300-1400 km from the primary winter area. Eiders enter the Beaufort Sea at Point Barrow then move east 300-350 km to their nesting colonies. Nesting adult females were marked with satellite transmitters during summer then followed the next spring and early summer. Transmitters were programmed to provide location data every 3 days (2001, n = 12) or daily (2002 and 2004, n = 7 and 18, respectively) beginning 15 April. I expected the dates of arrival to the colony to vary with weather during migration (Point. Barrow to the colony) and general conditions in spring (early or late year based on differences in temperatures from the long term norm for April, May, and June). All individuals returned to the colony area they were marked the previous year. Data were consistent with other “short” distance migrants. There were no correlations of the dates of arrival to the dates birds left the wintering area, the total days spent staging, wind speed or direction, temperature, weather, or seasonal differences in temperature from the long term average, a plethora of non-significant results. However, two patterns emerged: some birds migrated about 550 km and staged in the eastern Chukchi Sea before migrating to the colonies, while others went directly either to the colony area (1300 km) or elsewhere within the western  Beaufort. I will present preliminary analysis and several hypotheses regarding these two strategies. 

Additional publication details

Publication type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Title Individual variation in staging and timing of spring migration of Pacific common eiders in Alaska
Year Published 2005
Language English
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center
Description 1 p.
Larger Work Type Conference Paper
Larger Work Subtype Conference Paper
Larger Work Title Second North America Sea Duck Conference
First page 39
Conference Title Second North America Sea Duck Conference
Conference Location Annapolis, MD
Conference Date November 7-11, 2005
Country United States
State Alaska
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N