Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
KODIAK: Refuge's Steller's Eiders Migrate to Russia and Back
Alaska Region, September 27, 2005
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In the second year of a cooperative project involving the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, 46 Steller's eiders (22 males, 24 females) were captured in Women's Bay, Kalsin Bay, and Gibson Cove from February 26 through March 12, 2005. All received metal leg bands and royal blue tarsus bands. Twenty-one birds (16 females, 5 males) were surgically implanted with 40 gram satellite transmitters. Of these, 12 were held in captivity for up to 14 days pre-surgery and 12 days post-surgery. The remaining eight birds were held in captivity post-surgery only (up to 14 days). All birds were released at the capture site on 19 March. All pre-held birds survived. Among the post-hold only group three birds died in captivity (3 females) and 2 died post-release (1 male, 1 female).

Twelve females and four males migrated from Kodiak in April 2005. Fifteen of 16 birds migrated to Russia. The remaining bird, a second-year female, remained in Bristol Bay for the summer. The majority of birds bred in the Russian Arctic between the Indigirka and Yana rivers. One female migrated west of the Khatanga River to the Taymar Peninsula.

A non-breeding male was the first of these migrants to return to Alaska to molt, arriving in Port Moeller by August 5th. All are expected to return to Kodiak wintering areas by November as they did during the first year of the study. Remarkably, not only do the birds return to the same bays, but they return to the same places in these bays. Although biologists have long suspected this, it has now been documented. This characteristic has some important management implications.

Less dramatic migrations were documented among 11 black scoters captured as part of the same effort. Seven birds (4 females, 3 males) were implanted with transmitters. All survived and departed Kodiak between April 6th and May 1st. All four females went to nesting areas, three on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta and one on the Alaska Peninsula. The three males remained on the coast.

Contact Info: Kristen Gilbert, 907-786-3391, Kristen_Gilbert@fws.gov
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