Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Alaska
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Alaska Project

Migration Trends for King and Common Eiders and Yellow-billed Loons Past Point Barrow in a rapidly changing environment

April 2016 - December 2018


Participating Agencies

  • Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management
King and Common Eiders migrating past Point Barrow, Alaska

Most of the king (Somateria spectabilis) and common eiders (S. mollissima v-nigra) and yellow-billed loons (Gavia adamsii) nesting in northern Alaska and northwestern Canada migrate twice-annually past Point Barrow, Alaska during their northward spring migration and their southward fall migration. In 1996, spring and fall counts indicated both eider species experienced population declines of approximately 50% between 1976 and 1996. The counts were repeated in 2002-2004, at which time it appeared that since 1996 the number of common eiders passing Point Barrow had increased, but only slightly, and that the number of king eiders had remained stable but had not come back to the 1970 levels. Loon species were also counted in the surveys in 2002-2004, but data have not been analyzed. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the North Slope Borough (NSB) successfully completed a spring count in 2015 and propose to repeat the spring migration count in 2016. Our objectives are to: (1) obtain estimates of king and common eider populations to be analyzed with the current 2015 count and that can be compared with those from 1970s, 1996 and the early 2000s in order to evaluate long-term and current trends; (2) evaluate observer error through photographic and radar techniques; and (3) obtain estimates of yellow-billed loon populations that can be compared to the previous counts. Such data is critically needed in order to assess conservation needs of these species, both now and in the future.

Research Publications Publication Date
Powell, A.N., R. Bentzen, and R. Suydam. 2018. Migration trends for king and common eiders and yellow-billed loons past Point Barrow in a rapidly changing environment. Final OCS Study BOEM 2018-059. December 2018
McGuire, R., R. Suydam, L. Quakenbush, and A. Powell. 2019. Population trends of king and common eiders from spring migration counts at Point Barrow, Alaska between 1994 and 2016 Polar Biology. September 2019