eWestern Birds

The Quarterly Journal of Western Field Ornithologists

Vol. 33, No. 2
June 2002
Western Field Ornithologists

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Historical and Present Breeding Season Distribution of Steller’s Eiders in Alaska
Lori T. Quakenbush, Robert H. Day, Betty A. Anderson, Frank A. Pitelka, and Brian J. McCaffery

ABSTRACT: The Alaska breeding population of the Steller's Eider (Polysticta stelleri) occurs as two subpopulations, one on the Arctic coastal plain of northern Alaska, primarily near Barrow, and the other on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta of western Alaska. In 1997, the Alaska breeding population was listed under the Endangered Species Act as threatened because the nesting range and population were thought to have decreased substantially. The historical (pre-1970) and recent (1970-present) breeding distribution and abundance of Steller's Eiders, however, are not well known. We compiled and evaluated the historical and recent records of breeding-season distribution, confirmed nesting for northern and western Alaska, and found that the overall sizes of the breeding ranges have not changed substantially; however, the frequency of breeding has decreased in both regions, except near Barrow. Causes of this reduction in breeding frequency of Steller's Eiders in Alaska are unknown, but changes in predator populations, lead poisoning, and interspecific nesting associations with Snowy Owls (Nyctea scandiaca) and Pomarine Jaegers (Stercorarius pomarinus) may be contributing factors.

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