Molting, Staging, and Wintering Locations of Common Eiders Breeding in the Gyrfalcon Archipelago, Ungava Bay

Keywords: common eider, home range, molting area, migration, satellite telemetry, Somateria mollissima borealis, wintering area

Abstract

The northern common eider (Somateria mollissima borealis) has become a source of concern because of recent declines and possible overharvest. Birds that breed in the Canadian mid-Arctic winter in both Greenland and Canada, but the wintering grounds of birds that breed farther south are unknown. Our objectives were thus to identify the molting and wintering areas of birds breeding in Ungava Bay and to compare their home-range sizes during the pre-molt, molt, post-molt, and winter periods. Using satellite telemetry, we determined that common eiders breeding in the lower Arctic winter in Greenland (67%) and Canada (33%). These proportions are consistent with the split established for common eiders that breed farther north. Females spent their pre-molt period close to their breeding islands and had the smallest home ranges during the molt period. Winter home ranges were larger in Canada than in Greenland, probably because they contained more ice. Once settled, birds wintered in a relatively small area and did not undertake long movements. Distance between molt and winter sites ranged between 1054 and 2173 km. Duration of migration to or from wintering areas varied among individuals from rapid movement in a few days to slow progress over a month. Fall migration occurred in late October or early November, and spring migration, in early to mid-May. This study highlights the importance of Ungava Bay for northern common eiders and the need for international collaboration to ensure sustainable use of the resource.

Published
2011-06-02