Polar Biology

, Volume 39, Issue 11, pp 2179–2188 | Cite as

Migration strategies of common eiders from Svalbard: implications for bilateral conservation management

  • Sveinn Are HanssenEmail author
  • Geir Wing Gabrielsen
  • Jan Ove Bustnes
  • Vegard Sandøy Bråthen
  • Elise Skottene
  • Anette A. Fenstad
  • Hallvard Strøm
  • Vidar Bakken
  • Richard A. Phillips
  • Børge Moe
Original Paper


The Arctic is a highly seasonal environment with a harsh climate and extensive sea ice cover during the winter. Consequently, most Arctic-breeding seabirds migrate south to reach more benign environmental conditions. Knowledge of migration routes and wintering areas is integral for successful conservation of these globally important breeding populations. In this study, we deployed light-level geolocators on female common eiders Somateria mollissima breeding in Kongsfjorden, Svalbard, to track movements during the non-breeding season. We retrieved functioning loggers from 47 individual birds in 2009–2013 and mapped their migration routes and wintering areas. Thirty-six birds (77 %) wintered around the Icelandic coast and 11 (23 %) off the coasts of North Norway. Autumn migration took place between late August and late December, and spring migration from late March to late May. The migration (ca 1700 km to Iceland and 1300 km to North Norway) lasted for about 4 days in autumn and 3 days in spring. Later arrival resulted in later nest initiation, implying a carry-over effect of winter conditions on subsequent breeding. Birds that migrated to Norway departed later from Svalbard in autumn and consequently spent less time in the wintering area than individuals that migrated to Iceland. As just two countries, Iceland and Norway, appear to host all common eiders from Svalbard during the winter, the new information provided by this study on the core areas and timing of migration should provide the impetus for improved bilateral conservation management of this important Arctic breeding population of common eiders.


Common eider Arctic Migration Wintering area Geolocation Conservation 



We thank Kjell Tore Hansen, Maarten Loonen, Thomas Oudman, Elise Biersma, Anouk Goedknegt, Fokje Schaafsma, Tore Nordstad and Kjetil Sagerup for help during fieldwork and personnel at Norwegian Polar Institute/Sverdrupstasjonen in Ny-Ålesund for logistic support. James Fox, Karine Delord, Céline Clément Chastel, Olivier Chastel, Morten Frederiksen, Michael Greenacre and Rob van Bemmelen provided valuable technical inputs, the Norwegian Ringing Centre (Museum Stavanger) provided ringing and recovery data. Comments from Anders Mosbech and an anonymous reviewer greatly improved the manuscript. Permissions for fieldwork and instrumentation were granted by the Governor of Svalbard and Norwegian Animal Research Authority (NARA/FDU). Funding was provided by the Norwegian Research Council (Birdhealth/IPY, Arctic Field Grant/Svalbard Science Forum), Nansenfondet, Norsk Ornitologisk Forening (NOF), Ekteparet Sørlies fond til beste for viltlevende fugler, FRAM—High North Research Centre for Climate and the Environment and SEATRACK.

Supplementary material

300_2016_1908_MOESM1_ESM.docx (14.4 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 14789 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sveinn Are Hanssen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Geir Wing Gabrielsen
    • 2
  • Jan Ove Bustnes
    • 1
  • Vegard Sandøy Bråthen
    • 3
  • Elise Skottene
    • 4
  • Anette A. Fenstad
    • 4
  • Hallvard Strøm
    • 2
  • Vidar Bakken
    • 5
  • Richard A. Phillips
    • 6
  • Børge Moe
    • 3
  1. 1.FRAM—High North Research Centre for Climate and the EnvironmentNorwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA)TromsøNorway
  2. 2.FRAM—High North Research Centre for Climate and the EnvironmentNorwegian Polar InstituteTromsøNorway
  3. 3.Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA)TrondheimNorway
  4. 4.Department of BiologyNorwegian University of Science and TechnologyTrondheimNorway
  5. 5.ARC DAVåler i ØstfoldNorway
  6. 6.British Antarctic SurveyNatural Environment Research CouncilCambridgeshireUK

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