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Steller's Eider Survey

Stellers Eider Group

Steller’s eiders are the smallest member of the four eider duck species.  They breed in northern Alaska and Russia and winter from the eastern Aleutian Islands 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.

The Kodiak archipelago is the southeastern edge of the Steller’s eider wintering range. In the early 1990’s, Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge began aerial surveys to count flocks of eiders feeding in the shallow eelgrass habitats along the eastern side of Kodiak Island. In 2010, the winter count of Steller’s eiders was 2,700, well below the average of about 4,000 birds seen on previous surveys conducted in 1992-1994 and 2001.  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.

The sixth Kodiak Steller's eider winter aerial survey was flown from 3-7 February 2010, covering most of the eastern coastal portion of the Kodiak Archipelago. The survey design consisted of a single flight parallel to the shoreline between 200 and 400 meters offshore, with s-turn patterns as necessary to cover shoals shallower than 20 meters providing known or potential habitat for Steller's eiders. All groups of eiders and other waterbirds and marine mammals were identified and counted or estimated by the pilot and the starboard observer. Observations were dictated into GPS-linked laptop computers, providing electronic records of the location of each observation, and the flight path of the survey aircraft. A total of 2699 Steller’s eiders were recorded for the 2010 survey, compared with 5,349 in early March, 1994, and an expanded estimate of 5,341 in 2001. Survey coverage was not complete in all areas but an analysis by area indicates that the number of Steller’s Eiders counted was lower across the entire survey with the most pronounced declines in Chiniak Bay.
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Last Updated: Apr 13, 2012
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