Distribution, Abundance and Reaction to Aerial Surveys of Post-breeding King Eiders (<i>Somateria spectabilis</i>) in Western Greenland
Keywords:king eider, Somateria spectabilis, moulting areas, abundance, aerial surveys, disturbance, western Greenland
Moulting and post-breeding king eiders in western Greenland were surveyed in late August and early September of 1993, 1994, and 1995. We counted all eiders observed during fixed-winged aircraft flights along coastlines and offshore transects. The coastline in the survey area is roughly 13 400 km long, and our flightlines totalled approximately 16 500 km. The areas optimal for the birds were covered fully several times; in less suitable areas, only a fraction of the coastline was covered. Using the largest count for coastlines covered more than once, we counted a total of 22 980 king eiders. Large numbers of king eiders were observed at a number of remote localities on the west coast of Disko Island and in southern Upernavik. At localities considered to have frequent disturbance, few birds were observed. Highest densities were found along coasts with sandy or muddy areas at the shorelines. Overall we estimate that 30 000 to 40 000 king eiders reside in the coastal zone of western Greenland in late August. Even allowing for a high turnover rate, as different individuals may occupy the moulting areas during the extended period from July to October, this figure can account for only half of a 1950s estimate that 200 000 males and immatures were moulting in western Greenland.