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

Dunham, Kylee, and Grand, J.B., 2016, Viability of the Alaskan breeding population of Steller’s eiders: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2016–1084, 8 p.,


The Alaskan breeding population of Steller’s eiders (Polysticta stelleri) was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1997 in response to perceived declines in abundance throughout their breeding and nesting range. Aerial surveys suggest the breeding population is small and highly variable in number, with zero birds counted in 5 of the last 25 years. Research was conducted to evaluate competing population process models of Alaskan-breeding Steller’s eiders through comparison of model projections to aerial survey data. To evaluate model efficacy and estimate demographic parameters, a Bayesian state-space modeling framework was used and each model was fit to counts from the annual aerial surveys, using sequential importance sampling and resampling. The results strongly support that the Alaskan breeding population experiences population level nonbreeding events and is open to exchange with the larger Russian-Pacific breeding population. Current recovery criteria for the Alaskan breeding population rely heavily on the ability to estimate population viability. The results of this investigation provide an informative model of the population process that can be used to examine future population states and assess the population in terms of the current recovery and reclassification criteria.