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KODIAK: Wintering Steller’s Eiders More Scarce Near Kodiak Island
Alaska Region, April 14, 2010
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Steller’s Eiders in Gibson Cove, Kodiak, Alaska. (Photo Credit: Rich MacIntosh)
Steller’s Eiders in Gibson Cove, Kodiak, Alaska. (Photo Credit: Rich MacIntosh) - Photo Credit: n/a
Kodiak Refuge Biologist Robin Corcoran and Migratory Bird Management Pilot-Biologist Paul Anderson take a break from surveying Steller’s Eiders along the eastern coastline of Kodiak Refuge. (Photo Credit: Bill Larned, USFWS)
Kodiak Refuge Biologist Robin Corcoran and Migratory Bird Management Pilot-Biologist Paul Anderson take a break from surveying Steller’s Eiders along the eastern coastline of Kodiak Refuge. (Photo Credit: Bill Larned, USFWS) - Photo Credit: n/a

In February, biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Migratory Bird Management (MBM) and Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge completed an aerial survey of wintering Steller’s Eiders along the eastern coast of Kodiak Island.  Steller’s Eiders are the smallest member of the four eider duck species.  Steller’s breed in northern Alaska and Russia and winter from the eastern Aleutians to lower Cook Inlet. The worldwide population of Steller’s Eiders has declined as much as 50% in the past 30 years, and in 1997 the Alaska breeding population was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

This winter’s count of Steller’s Eiders near Kodiak was 2,700, well below the average of about 4,000 birds seen on previous surveys conducted in 1992-1994 and 2001.  Over the years, wintering Steller’s eiders have been relatively common in Chiniak Bay and on the east side of Kodiak Island.  “Only future surveys can determine if we are seeing a declining trend or if this is an abnormally low year,” reflected Kodiak Refuge biologist Robin Corcoran.  Kodiak Refuge plans to survey for Steller’s Eiders every 5 years to determine the status of this species wintering along the eastern shoreline of the island. 

Kodiak’s bays and nearshore waters  are home to large numbers of seabirds and seaducks in the winter due to relatively warm temperatures, abundant shallow near-shore habitat, and access to open water. The survey tallied several other species of sea ducks, including Goldeneye; Bufflehead; Long-tailed Duck; Harlequin Duck; King and Common Eider; Black, White-winged, and Surf Scoter; and Common and Red-breasted Merganser  in numbers similar to long-term averages.  Emperor Geese were observed in larger numbers this year.  Nearly 6,800 were recorded while the long-term average near Kodiak is 2,300. Migratory Bird Management pilot biologists Bill Larned and Paul Anderson conducted the survey with assistance from Corcoran.   The survey was conducted from a specially modified turbine Beaver aircraft


Contact Info: Robin Corcoran, 907-487-0229, robin_corcoran@fws.gov



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