Distribution and Abundance of Steller's Eider's In The Kodiak Archipelago, Alaska Jan-Feb 2001

Larned, William W.
Zwiefelhofer, Denny
USFWS -Migratory Bird Management - Alaska
USFWS -Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge Alaska

Concerns about apparent declines in Steller's eider (Kertell 1991) and other sea duck populations
prompted personnel of the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge to initiate an annual winter aerial
survey to assess and monitor sea duck populations.The fourth Kodiak aerial Steller's eider winter survey was flown from 29 January to 2 February
2001, 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 all shoals shallower than 20 meters providing known or
potential habitat for Steller's eiders. Coverage is comparable to that of the 1994 survey, with the
same observers. 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. 4,196 Steller’s eiders were recorded for
survey, compared with 5,349 in early March, 1994. We provide an adjusted estimate of 5,341
Steller's eiders in 2001, which includes two portions of the Trinity Islands area where we
extrapolated data from systematic samples because total coverage was not feasible. Comparisons
of area totals between 1994 and 2001 showed some extreme disparities in distribution among
years. Partial shoreline coverage of Afognak and Shuyak Islands failed to produce any sightings
of Steller’s eiders. We recommend replicate surveys and/or Satellite telemetry to determine the
fidelity of wintering Steller’s eiders to wintering habitats within the Kodiak Archipelago and in
other portions of Southwest Alaska.
Key Words: Waterfowl, Steller's eider, Polysticta stelleri, aerial, sea duck, Kodiak, Alaska