Polar Biology

, Volume 32, Issue 5, pp 775–783 | Cite as

International importance of the eastern Chukchi Sea as a staging area for migrating king eiders

  • Steffen OppelEmail author
  • D. Lynne Dickson
  • Abby N. Powell
Original Paper


The evaluation of habitats used by arctic birds on migration is crucial for their conservation. We explored the importance of the eastern Chukchi Sea (ECS) as a staging area for king eiders (Somateria spectabilis) migrating between breeding areas in Siberia and western North America and wintering areas in the Bering Sea. We tracked 190 king eiders with satellite transmitters between 1997 and 2007. In late summer, 74% of satellite-tracked king eiders migrating south staged in the ECS for 13 ± 13 (SD) days between late June and early November. During spring migration, king eiders staged in the ECS between mid-April and early June for 21 ± 10 days. All instrumented birds migrating to breeding grounds in western North America (= 62), and 6 of 11 males migrating to breeding grounds in Siberia, used this area for at least 1 week during spring migration. The importance of this staging area renders it possible that industrial development could adversely affect king eider populations in both Siberia and North America.


Industrial development King eider Migration Satellite telemetry Staging Somateria spectabilis 



This study was funded by the Coastal Marine Institute (University of Alaska, Fairbanks), Minerals Management Service, US Geological Survey (OCS Program), and Canadian Wildlife Service. Further financial and technical support was provided by the Sea Duck Joint Venture, US Fish and Wildlife Service, North Slope Borough, ConocoPhillips Alaska Inc., Inuvialuit Wildlife Management Advisory Council, World Wildlife Fund, BP Exploration Alaska, Polar Continental Shelf Project, US Geological Survey Alaska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Institute of Arctic Biology (University of Alaska Fairbanks), and German Academic Exchange Service. We thank G. Balogh, J. Fadely, C. Monnett, J. Gleason, B. Anderson, P. Martin, H. Trefry, S. Trefry, M. Hay, T. Bowman, T. Obritschkewitsch, C. Rea, A. Lazenby, J. Harth, D. Douglas, R. Suydam, D. Troy, J. Zelenak, P. Howey, G. Raven, B. Griffith, and many field assistants for valuable input and technical assistance. E. Taylor initiated the satellite telemetry project, and we appreciate his efforts. L. Phillips assisted in catching birds as well as analyzing telemetry data, and we greatly appreciate her help. We are also grateful to our veterinarians C. Scott, P. Tuomi, and M. Mitchell, and several vet technicians for performing the surgeries. The manuscript benefited from thoughtful comments by E. C. Murphy, R. Suydam, T. Bowman, L. Phillips, and E. Taylor. The use of trade, product, or firm names in this publication is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by either the US or Canadian Government.


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Copyright information

© US Government  2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steffen Oppel
    • 1
    Email author
  • D. Lynne Dickson
    • 2
  • Abby N. Powell
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Biology and WildlifeUniversity of AlaskaFairbanksUSA
  2. 2.Canadian Wildlife ServiceEdmontonCanada
  3. 3.US Geological Survey Alaska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Institute of Arctic BiologyUniversity of AlaskaFairbanksUSA

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