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Alaska Science Center

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Sea Duck Research

The group of waterfowl called sea ducks has 15 species that nest in North America including eiders, scoters, mergansers, goldeneyes, buffleheads, long-tailed ducks, and harlequin ducks.  Sea ducks have unique adaptations for life in high latitude and marine environments, including glands which excrete salt after the consumption of sea water, dense plumage, and extensive fat reserves.  Historically, sea ducks have been an important resource for indigenous communities in the arctic, providing rich food, and down and densely feathered material for clothing.  Elaborate plumages and remote distributions also attract bird enthusiasts and waterfowl hunters.

At the USGS Alaska Science Center, research on sea ducks has been designed to anticipate and address priority information needs of management agencies.  Until recently, very little was known about sea ducks in Alaska in terms of migration patterns and general biology.  Therefore, much of our past work focused on individual species, their migration, population demography, and ecology to fill these information gaps.  The USGS has also incorporated sea ducks into Nearshore Marine Ecology Research as an indicator of marine and nearshore ecosystem health.  USGS research has also focused on delineation of population segments so that management plans can be the most effective.  USGS was involved in the recent publication of a book (Edited by: Savard, Derksen, Esler and Eadie 2015) that provides a significant update to our understanding of sea duck biology.

[Back to Waterfowl Research by Species]

Common Eider

Common Eider - photo by Jeff Wasley, USGS
Common Eider on the Arctic Coastal Plain. Photo by Jeff Wasley, USGS. Click on image for larger view.

Common eiders are circumpolar in their distribution and remain at high latitudes for both breeding and winter, making them a model species for testing the influence of changing Arctic conditions to a sea duck species.  Common eiders are also a model species for understanding the influence of disease, contaminants, and predation on sea ducks in general because common eiders occur at larger densities during nesting that many other sea ducks.  Lastly, Common eiders are unique in that they are one of the few species of waterfowl to have substantial genetic, plumage and morphological differences among different regions of the world.  Much of the USGS Alaska Science Center research on Common eiders has focused on effects of sea ice, breeding biology, migration, contaminants and disease, and behaviors that drive the observed differences between populations.

Selected Publications:

Latty, C. J., T. E. Hollmén, M. R. Petersen, A. N. Powell, and R. D. Andrews. 2016. Biochemical and clinical responses of Common Eiders to implanted satellite transmitters. Condor 118:489-501. doi:10.1650/CONDOR-16-7.1 [Details] [Full Publication]

Petersen, M. R., G. V. Byrd, S. A. Sonsthagen, and M. G. Sexson. 2015. Recolonization by common eiders (Somateria mollissima) in the Aleutian Archipelago following removal of introduced arctic foxes (Vulpes lagopus). Journal of Avian Biology In Press. doi:10.1111/jav.00626 [Details] [Full Publication]

Sonsthagen, S. A., S. L. Talbot, R. E. Wilson, M. R. Petersen, G. V. Byrd, J. C. Williams, and K. G. McCracken. 2013. Genetic structure of the Common Eider in the Western Aleutian Islands prior to fox eradication. Condor 115(1):28-39. doi:10.1525/cond.2012.110054 [Details] [Full Publication]

Petersen, M. R., D. C. Douglas, H. M. Wilson, and S. E. McCloskey. 2012. Effects of sea ice on winter site fidelity of Pacific Common Eiders (Somateria mollissima v-nigrum). The Auk 129(3):399-408. doi:10.1525/auk.2012.11256 [Details] [Full Publication]

Wilson, H. M., P. L. Flint, A. N. Powell, J. B. Grand, and C. L. Moran. 2012. Population ecology of breeding Pacific Common Eiders on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska. Wildlife Monographs 182:1-28. doi:10.1002/wmon.8 [Details] [Full Publication]

Sonsthagen, S. A., S. L. Talbot, K. T. Scribner, and K. G. McCracken. 2011. Multilocus phylogeography and population structure of Common Eiders breeding in North America and Scandinavia. Journal of Biogeography 38(7):1368-1380. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2699.2011.02492.x [Details] [Full Publication]

Sonsthagen, S. A., S. L. Talbot, R. B. Lanctot, and K. G. McCracken. 2010. Do common eiders nest in kin groups? Microgeographic genetic structure in a philopatric sea duck. Molecular Ecology 2010(19):647-657. doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2009.04495.x [Details] [Full Publication]

Latty, C. J., T. E. Hollmén, M. R. Petersen, A. N. Powell, and R. D. Andrews. 2010. Abdominally implanted transmitters with percutaneous antennas affect the dive performance of Common Eiders. Condor 112:314-322. [Details]

Sonsthagen, S. A., S. L. Talbot, R. B. Lanctot, K. T. Scribner, and K. G. McCracken. 2009. Hierarchical spatial genetic structure of common eiders (Somateria mollissima) breeding along a migratory corridor. The Auk 126(4):744-754. doi:10.1525/auk.2009.08224 [Details] [Full Publication]

Petersen, M. R. 2009. Multiple spring migration strategies in a population of Pacific Common Eiders. Condor 111(1):59–70. doi:10.1525/cond.2009.080078 [Details] [Full Publication]
Reed, J. A., D. L. Lacroix, and P. L. Flint. 2007. Depredation of Common Eider nests along the central Beaufort Sea coast: A case where no one wins. Canadian Field-Naturalist 121. [Details]

Sonsthagen, S. A., S. L. Talbot, and K. G. McCracken. 2007. Genetic characterization of Common Eiders (Somateria mollissima) breeding in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska. Condor 109(4):879-894. doi:10.1650/0010-5422(2007)109[878:GCOCEB]2.0.CO;2 [Details] [Full Publication]

Wilson, H. M., P. L. Flint, and A. N. Powell. 2007. Coupling contaminants with demography: Effects of lead and selenium in Pacific common eiders. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 26:1410-1417. [Details]

Franson, J. C., D. J. Hoffman, A. M. Wells, M. C. Perry, V. S. Bochsler, D. L. Finley, P. L. Flint, and T. E. Hollmén. 2007. Effects of dietary selenium exposure in captive American Common Eiders (Somateria mollissima). Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health Part A 70:861-874. [Details]

Wilson, H. M., P. L. Flint, T. L. Moran, and A. N. Powell. 2007. Survival of breeding Pacific Common Eiders on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska. Journal of Wildlife Management 71:403-410. [Details]

Franson, J. C., T. E. Hollmén, P. L. Flint, J. B. Grand, and R. B. Lanctot. 2004. Contaminants in molting long-tailed ducks and nesting common eiders in the Beaufort Sea. Marine Pollution Bulletin 48:504-513. [Details]

Matson, C. W., J. C. Franson, T. E. Hollmén, M. Kilpi, M. Hario, P. L. Flint, and J. W. Bickham. 2004. Evidence of chromosomal damage in Common Eiders (Somateria mollissima) from the Baltic Sea. Marine Pollution Bulletin 49(11-12):1066-1071. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2004.07.014 [Details] [Full Publication]

Petersen, M. R. and P. L. Flint. 2002. Population structure of Pacific common eiders breeding in Alaska. Condor 104:780-787. [Details]

Grand, J. B., J. C. Franson, P. L. Flint, and M. R. Petersen. 2002. Concentrations of trace elements in eggs and blood of spectacled and common eiders on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska, USA. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 21:1673-1678. [Details]

Flint, P. L. and J. L. Schamber. 1998. Survival of adult and juvenile common eiders during brood rearing. Wildfowl 49:103-109. [Details]

Franson, J. C., M. R. Petersen, C. U. Meteyer, and M. R. Smith. 1995. Lead poisoning of Spectacled eiders (Somateria fischeri) and of a Common eider (S. mollissima) in Alaska. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 31:268-271. [Details]

Petersen, M. R. 1995. Lead Poisoning of Spectacled Eiders (Somateria fischeri) and of Common Eider (Somateria mollissima) in Alaska. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 31(2):268-271. [Details]

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King Eider

King Eider at  Manokinak in 2010 - photo by Brian Uher-Koch, USGS
King Eider drake at Manokinak, Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta in 2010. Photo by Brian Uher-Koch, USGS. Click on image for larger view.

King eiders are susceptible to at-sea oil spills because of their broad distribution throughout coastal and off-shore areas of Alaska during all months of the year.  USGS Alaska Science Center research on King eiders began after the 1996 M/V Citrus oil spill in the Pribilof Islands, Alaska.  Nothing was known about which breeding populations were impacted by the spill, so genetic analyses were conducted to determine if origins of the oil birds could be determined.  However, genetic analyses suggested limited differentiation among breeding and wintering populations of King eiders that resulted from their highly migratory nature. 

Selected Publications:

Pearce, J. M., S. L. Talbot, B. J. Pierson, M. R. Petersen, K. T. Scribner, D. L. Dickson, and A. Mosbech. 2004. Lack of spatial genetic structure among nesting and wintering king eiders. Condor 106(2):229-240. [Details] [Full Publication]

Wilson, H. M., M. R. Petersen, and D. Troy. 2004. Concentrations of trace elements in blood of Spectacled and King Eiders in Northern Alaska. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 23:408-414. [Details]

Fowler, A. C. and P. L. Flint. 1997. Persistence rates and detection probabilities of oiled king eider carcasses on St. Paul Island, Alaska. Marine Pollution Bulletin 34:522-526. [Details]

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Spectacled Eider

Spectacled Eider drake - photo by Brian Uher-Koch, USGS
Spectacled Eider hen - photo by Brian Uher-Koch, USGS

Spectacled Eiders on the Arctic Coastal Plain. Male (top) and female (bottom). Photos by Brian Uher-Koch, USGS. Click on image for larger view.

Spectacled Eiders are large sea ducks that spend 9 to 12 months of the year in marine habitat (Petersen et al. 1999). At sea, eiders forage on clams, polychaete worms, and other organisms on the sea floor. In winter, the world population of Spectacled Eiders group at a single site south of St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, in the northern Bering Sea. In the summer, the species is divided into three breeding populations; western and northern Alaska and northern Russia. A majority (> 90%) of adults nest in Russia.

In 1993, the Spectacled Eider was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and critical habitat was later designated throughout the species’ North American range. USGS research on Spectacled Eiders has focused on migration, wintering and breeding ecology, and factors involved in population status and trends.  In 1993 -1997, biologists at the USGS Alaska Science Center marked Spectacled Eiders with implantable satellite transmitters, which led to the discovery of critical molting and wintering areas.  Current research is providing important location and habitat information for Spectacled eiders migrating through northwest Alaska that is informing oil and gas development activities.

Selected Publications:

Flint, P. L., J. B. Grand, and M. R. Petersen. 2016. Effects of Lead Exposure, Environmental Conditions, and Metapopulation Processes on Population Dynamics of Spectacled Eiders. North American Fauna 81:1-41. doi:10.3996/nafa.81.0001 [Details] [Full Publication]

Sexson, M. G., J. M. Pearce, and M. R. Petersen. 2014. Spatiotemporal distribution and migratory patterns of Spectacled Eiders.  BOEM Scientific and Technical Publication 2014-665. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Alaska Outer Continental Shelf Region, Anchorage, Alaska. http://www.boem.gov/uploadedFiles/BOEM/BOEM_Newsroom/Library/Publications/2014-665.pdf

Sexson, M. G., D. M. Mulcahy, M. Spriggs, and G. E. Myers. 2014. Factors influencing immediate post-release survival of Spectacled Eiders following surgical implantation of transmitters with percutaneous antennae. Journal of Wildlife Management 78(3):550-560. doi:10.1002/jwmg.690

Federer, R., T. E. Hollmén, D. Esler, M. J. Wooller, and S. W. Wang. 2010. Stable carbon and nitrogen isotope discrimination factors from diet to blood plasma, cellular blood, feathers, and adipose fatty acids in Spectacled Eiders (Somateria fischeri). Canadian Journal of Zoology 88:866-874. doi:10.1139/Z10-052

Flint, P. L., J. A. Morse, J. B. Grand, and C. L. Moran. 2006. Correlated growth and survival of Spectacled Eider ducklings: Evidence of habitat limitation? Condor 108:901-911. [Details]

Petersen, M. R. and D. C. Douglas. 2004. Winter ecology of spectacled eiders: Environmental characteristics and population change. Condor 106:79-94. [Details] [Full Publication]

Scribner, K. T., M. R. Petersen, R. L. Fields, S. L. Talbot, J. M. Pearce, and R. K. Chesser. 2001. Sex-biased gene flow in Spectacled Eiders (Anatidae): inferen ces from molecular markers with contrasting modes of inheritance. Evolution 55(10):2105-2115. [Details] [Full Publication]

Flint, P. L., J. B. Grand, J. A. Morse, and T. F. Fondell. 2000. Late summer survival of adult female and juvenile spectacled eiders on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska. Waterbirds 23:292-297. [Details]

Petersen, M. R., W. W. Larned, and D. C. Douglas. 1999. At-sea distribution of spectacled eiders (Somateria fischeri): 120 year-old mystery resolved. The Auk 116:1009-1020. doi:[pdf file 971kb] [Details] [Full Publication]

Petersen, M. R., J. F. Piatt, and K. A. Trust. 1998. Foods of spectacled eiders Somateria fischeri in the Bering Sea, Alaska. Wildfowl 49:124-128. [Details] [Full Publication]

Grand, J. B., P. L. Flint, M. R. Petersen, and T. L. Moran. 1998. Effect of lead poisoning on Spectacled Eider survival rates. Journal of Wildlife Management 62:1103-1109. [Details]

Pearce, J. M., D. Esler, and A. G. Degtyarev. 1998. Nesting ecology of spectacled eiders (Somateria fischeri) on the Indigirka River Delta, Russia. Wildfowl 49:110-123. [Details] [Full
Publication]

Franson, J. C., M. R. Petersen, L. C. Creekmore, P. L. Flint, and M. R. Smith. 1998. Blood lead concentrations of Spectacled Eiders near the Kashunuk River, Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge. Ecotoxicology 7:1-7. [Details]

Flint, P. L., M. R. Petersen, and J. B. Grand. 1997. Exposure of spectacled eiders and other diving ducks to lead in western Alaska. Canadian Journal of Zoology 75:439-443. doi:10.1139/z97-054 [Details] [Full Publication]

Petersen, M. R. 1995. Lead Poisoning of Spectacled Eiders (Somateria fischeri) and of Common Eider (Somateria mollissima) in Alaska. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 31(2):268-271. [Details]

Franson, J. C., M. R. Petersen, C. U. Meteyer, and M. R. Smith. 1995. Lead poisoning of Spectacled eiders (Somateria fischeri) and of a Common eider (S. mollissima) in Alaska. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 31:268-271. [Details]

Petersen, M. R., D. C. Douglas, and D. M. Mulcahy. 1995. Use of implanted satellite transmitters to locate Spectacled Eiders at-sea. Condor 97:276-278. doi:10.2307/1369006 [Details] [Full Publication]

Ely, C. R., C. P. Dau, and C. A. Babcock. 1994. Decline in a population of spectacled eiders nesting on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska. Northwestern Naturalist 75(3). [Details]

Flint, P. L. and J. B. Grand. 1997. Survival of spectacled eider adult females and ducklings during brood rearing. Journal of Wildlife Management 61:218-222. [Details]

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Steller's Eider


Steller's Eiders - photo by Jeff Wasley, USGS
Steller's Eiders. Photo by Jeff Wasley, USGS. Click on image for larger view.

In 1999, the Alaska population of Steller’s Eider was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.  In winter, much of the Russian and Alaskan breeding populations congregate in coastal areas of south-central and western Alaska, mostly along the Alaska Peninsula and into the Aleutian Islands.  In the summer, the Pacific portion of species is divided into three breeding populations; western and northern Alaska and northern Russia. The majority (> 90%) of adults nest in Russia.  USGS Alaska Science Center research on this species has focused on determining population connectivity between populations in Alaska and Russia, migration, molt and winter ecology, health assessments, and providing information for recovery efforts by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Selected Publications:

Miles, A. K., P. L. Flint, K. A. Trust, M. Ricca, S. E. Spring, D. E. Arrieta, T. E. Hollmén, and B. W. Wilson. 2007. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon exposure in Steller's Eiders and Harlequin Ducks in the Eastern Aleutian Islands, Alaska. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 26:2694-2703. [Details]

Reed, J. A. and P. L. Flint. 2007. Movement and foraging effort of Steller's Eiders and Harlequin Ducks wintering near Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Journal of Field Ornithology 78(2):117-125. doi:10.1111/j.1557-9263.2006.00093.x [Details] [Full Publication]

Pearce, J. M., S. L. Talbot, M. R. Petersen, and J. R. Rearick. 2005. Limited genetic differentiation among breeding, molting, and wintering groups of the threatened Steller's eiders: The role of historic and contemporary factors. Conservation Genetics 6(5):743-757. doi:10.1007/s10592-005-9034-4 [Details] [Full Publication]

Petersen, M. R., J. O. Bustnes, and G. H. Systad. 2005. Breeding and moulting locations and migration patterns of the Atlantic population of Steller's eiders Polysticta stelleri as determined from satellite telemetry. Journal of Avian Biology 37(1):58-68. doi:10.1111/j.0908-8857.2006.03472.x [Details] [Full Publication]

Dau, C. P., P. L. Flint, and M. R. Petersen. 2000. Steller's eiders banded on the lower Alaska Peninsula, Alaska. Journal of Field Ornithology 71:543-550. [Details]

Flint, P. L., M. R. Petersen, C. P. Dau, J. E. Hines, and J. D. Nichols. 2000. Annual survival and site fidelity of Steller's eiders molting along the Alaska Peninsula. Journal of Wildlife Management 64:261-268. [Details]

Flint, P. L. and M. P. Herzog. 1999. Breeding of Steller's Eiders, Polysticta stelleri, on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska. Canadian Field-Naturalist 113(2):306-308. [Details] [Full Publication]

Degtyarev, A. G., S. M. Sleptsov, S. P. Troev, J. M. Pearce, and M. R. Petersen. 1999. Status and biology of the Steller's eider in Yakutia, Russia. Casarca 5:249-262. [Details]

Petersen, M. R. 1981. Populations, feeding ecology, and molt of Steller's eiders. Condor 83:256-262. [Details]

Petersen, M. R. 1980. Observations of wing-feather moult and summer feeding ecology of Steller's eiders at Nelson Lagoon, Alaska. Wildfowl 31:99-106. [Details]

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Harlequin duck


Harlequin Duck - photo by Jeff Wasley, USGS
Harlequin Duck. Photo by Jeff Wasley, USGS. Click on image for larger view.

The Harlequin duck is a common species in marine coastal areas of North America during most of the year.  In summer, the species nests along river and creek banks.  Because of the difficulty in finding large numbers of Harlequin ducks to study during the breeding season, most of our understanding of Harlequin duck biology comes from the post-breeding and wintering seasons when birds are more easily observed.  Harlequin ducks in Prince William Sound were harmed by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska and research on impacts and recovery form the spill has spanned the past 2 decades.  The Harlequin duck is a key component of USGS Nearshore Marine Ecosystem Research.

Selected Publications:

Mulcahy, D. M. and D. Esler. 2010. Survival of captive and free-ranging Harlequin Ducks (Histrionicus histrionicus) following surgical liver biopsy. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 46:1325-1329. [Details]

Stoskopf, M. K., D. M. Mulcahy, and D. Esler. 2010. Evaluation of a portable automated serum chemistry analyzer for field assessment of Harlequin Ducks, Histrionicus histrionicus. Veterinary Medicine International 2010(418596). doi:10.4061/2010/418596 [Details] [Full Publication]

Nilsson, P., T. E. Hollmén, S. N. Atkinson, K. Mashburn, D. Esler, and D. M. Mulcahy, and D. J. Rizzolo. 2008. Effects of ACTH, capture, and short term confinement on glucocorticoid concentrations in Harlequin Ducks (Histrionicus histrionicus). Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology 149(3):275-283. doi:10.1016/j.cbpa.2008.01.002 [Details] [Full Publication]

Miles, A. K., P. L. Flint, K. A. Trust, M. Ricca, S. E. Spring, D. E. Arrieta, T. E. Hollmén, and B. W. Wilson. 2007. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon exposure in Steller's Eiders and Harlequin Ducks in the Eastern Aleutian Islands, Alaska. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 26:2694-2703. [Details]

Reed, J. A. and P. L. Flint. 2007. Movement and foraging effort of Steller's Eiders and Harlequin Ducks wintering near Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Journal of Field Ornithology 78(2):117-125. doi:10.1111/j.1557-9263.2006.00093.x [Details] [Full Publication]

Mulcahy, D. M., K. A. Burek, and D. Esler. 2007. Inflammatory reaction to fabric collars from percutaneous antennas attached to intracoelomic radio transmitters implanted in harlequin ducks (Histrionicus histrionicus). Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery 21(1):13-27. [Details] [Full Publication]

Mulcahy, D. M., D. Esler, and M. K. Stoskopf. 1999. Loss from harlequin ducks of abdominally implanted radio transmitters equipped with percutaneous antennas. Journal of Field Ornithology 70:244-250. [Details]

Mulcahy, D. M. and D. Esler. 1999. Surgical and immediate post-release mortality of harlequin ducks (Histrionicus histrionicus) implanted with abdominal radio transmitters with percutaneous antennas. Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine 30:397-401. [Details]

Lanctot, R. B., B. Goatcher, K. T. Scribner, S. L. Talbot, B. J. Pierson, D. Esler, and D. Zwiefelhofer. 1999. Harlequin duck recovery from the Exxon Valdez oil spill: a population genetics perspective. The Auk 116(3):781-791. [Details] [Full Publication]

Mather, D. D. and D. Esler. 1999. Evaluation of bursal depth as an indicator of age class of harlequin ducks. Journal of Field Ornithology 70:200-205. [Details]

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Long-tailed duck

Long-tailed Duck on the Arctic Coastal Plain - photo by Brian Uher-Koch, USGS
Long-tailed Duck on the Arctic Coastal Plain. Photo by Brian Uher-Koch, USGS. Click on image for larger view.

The long-tailed duck is a ubiquitous sea duck species in northern latitudes through the Arctic and sub-arctic.  While common in ocean and coastal areas during fall, winter and spring, in summer, birds nest in low densities making them difficult to study.  To fill gaps in our knowledge about the general biology of this species, USGS Alaska Science Center research on long-tailed ducks has focused mainly on molting birds in the Arctic, where they congregate in larger numbers, and pooling scant data from multiple years of nesting studies to understand drivers of population change.

Selected Publications:

Wilson, R. E., J. R. Gust, M. R. Petersen, and S. L. Talbot. 2015. Spatial genetic structure of Long-tailed Ducks (Clangula hyemalis) among Alaskan, Canadian, and Russian breeding populations. Arctic In Press. [Details]

Flint, P. L., J. A. Reed, D. L. Lacroix, and R. B. Lanctot. 2015. Habitat use and foraging patterns of molting long-tailed ducks in lagoons of the central Beaufort Sea, Alaska. Arctic In Press. [Details]

Flint, P. L., D. L. Lacroix, J. A. Reed, and R. B. Lanctot. 2004. Movements of flightless Long-tailed Ducks during wing molt. Waterbirds 27:35-40. [Details]

Franson, J. C., T. E. Hollmén, P. L. Flint, J. B. Grand, and R. B. Lanctot. 2004. Contaminants in molting long-tailed ducks and nesting common eiders in the Beaufort Sea. Marine Pollution Bulletin 48:504-513. [Details]

Hollmén, T. E., J. C. Franson, P. L. Flint, J. B. Grand, R. B. Lanctot, D. E. Docherty, and H. M. Wilson. 2003. An adenovirus linked to mortality and disease in Long-tailed Ducks (Clangula hyemalis) in Alaska. Avian Diseases 47:1434-1440. [Details]

Howell, M. D., J. B. Grand, and P. L. Flint. 2003. Body molt of male Long-tailed Ducks in the near-shore waters of the North Slope, Alaska. Wilson Bulletin 115:170-175. [Details]

Petersen, M. R., B. J. McCaffery, and P. L. Flint. 2003. Post-breeding distribution of Long-tailed Ducks Clangula hyemalis from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska. Wildfowl 54:103-113. [Details] [Full Publication]

Schamber, J. L., P. L. Flint, J. B. Grand, H. M. Wilson, and J. A. Morse. 2009. Population dynamics of Long-tailed Ducks breeding on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska. Arctic 62:190-200. [Details]

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Scoters

Surf Scoter - photo by Brian Uher-Koch, USGS

Surf Scoter. Photo by Brian Uher-Koch, USGS. Click on image for larger view.

Scoters are a common species in coastal marine areas of western, south-central, and south-eastern Alaska during winter and spring.  All three species (black, white-winged, and surf) breed in coastal and interior parts of Alaska during the summer.  USGS Alaska Science Center research on scoters has focused on migration, wintering and breeding ecology, population delineation, and use of marine resources during winter and the flightless molt period in late summer to fill gaps in our knowledge about these species.

Selected Publications:

Uher-Koch, B. D., D. Esler, R. D. Dickson, J. W. Hupp, J. R. Evenson, E. M. Anderson, J. Barrett, and J. A. Schmutz. 2014. Survival of Surf Scoters and White-Winged Scoters during remigial molt. Journal of Wildlife Management 78(7):1189-1196. doi:10.1002/jwmg.774 [Details] [Full Publication]

Anderson, E. M., D. Esler, W. S. Boyd, J. R. Evenson, D. R. Nysewander, D. H. Ward, R. D. Dickson, B. D. Uher-Koch, C. S. VanStratt, and J. W. Hupp. 2012. Predation rates, timing, and predator composition for scoters (Melanitta spp.) in marine habitats. Canadian Journal of Zoology 90(1):42-50. doi:10.1139/z11-110 [Details] [Full Publication]

Lok, E. K., D. Esler, J. Y. Takekawa, S. W. De La Cruz, W. S. Boyd, D. R. Nysewander, J. R. Evenson, and D. H. Ward. 2012. Spatiotemporal associations between Pacific herring spawn and Surf Scoter spring migration: evaluating a 'silver wave' hypothesis. Marine Ecology Progress Series 457:139-150. [Details]

Dickson, R. D., D. Esler, J. W. Hupp, E. M. Anderson, J. R. Evenson, and J. Barrett. 2012. Phenology and duration of remigial moult in Surf Scoters (Melanitta perspicillata) and White-winged Scoters (Melanitta fusca) on the Pacific coast of North America. Canadian Journal of Zoology 90(8):932-944. doi:10.1139/z2012-061 [Details] [Full Publication]

Lok, E. K., D. Esler, J. Y. Takekawa, S. W. De La Cruz, W. S. Boyd, D. R. Nysewander, J. R. Ball, and D. H. Ward. 2011. Stopover habitats of spring migrating Surf Scoters in southeast Alaska. Journal of Wildlife Management 75:92-100. [Details]

Schamber, J. L., F. J. Broerman, and P. L. Flint. 2010. Reproductive ecology and habitat use of Pacific Black Scoters (Melanitta nigra americana) nesting on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska. Journal of the Waterbird Society 33(2):129-271. [Details] [Full Publication]

Takekawa, J. Y., S. W. De La Cruz, M. T. Wilson, E. C. Palm, J. Lee, D. R. Nysewander, J. R. Evenson, D. Esler, W. S. Boyd, and D. H. Ward. 2011. Breeding synchrony, sympatry, and nesting areas of Pacific coast surf scoters (Melanitta perspicillata). Pages 41-64 in J.V. Wells, (ed.). Boreal birds of North America: a hemispheric view of their conservation links and significance. Studies in Avian Biology (no. 41). University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, USA. [Details]

De La Cruz, S. W., J. Y. Takekawa, M. T. Wilson, D. R. Nysewander, J. R. Evenson, D. Esler, W. S. Boyd, and D. H. Ward. 2009. Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata) spring migration routes and chronology: A synthesis of Pacific coast studies. Canadian Journal of Zoology 87:1069-1086. doi:10.1139/Z09-099 [Details] [Full Publication]

Lewis, T. L., D. Esler, and W. S. Boyd. 2008. Foraging behaviors of Surf Scoters (Melanitta perspicillata) and White-winged Scoters (M. fusca) in relation to clam density: inferring food availability and habitat quality. The Auk 125(1):149-157. doi:10.1525/auk.2008.125.1.149 [Details] [Full Publication]

Lewis, T. L., D. Esler, and W. S. Boyd. 2007. Effects of predation by sea ducks on clam abundance in soft-bottom intertidal habitats. Marine Ecology Progress Series 329:131-144. doi:10.3354/meps329131 [Details] [Full Publication]

Iverson, S. A., W. S. Boyd, D. Esler, D. M. Mulcahy, and T. D. Bowman. 2006. Comparison of the effects and performance of four types of radiotransmitters for use with scoters. Wildlife Society Bulletin 34(3):656-663. [Details]

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Common Goldeneye, Barrow’s Goldeneye, and Bufflehead

Barrow's Goldeneyes - photo by Brian Uher-Koch, USGS
Barrow's Goldeneyes. Photo by Brian Uher-Koch, USGS. Click on image for larger view.

Goldeneyes and buffleheads are cavity nesting species of the boreal and coastal forests of North America.  They are a common species in coastal marine areas of western, south-central, and south-eastern Alaska during winter and spring.  USGS Alaska Science Center research on these species has focused on filling gaps in our knowledge about population delineation, disease and contamination, and migration.

Selected Publications:

Pearce, J. M., J. M. Eadie, J-P. L. Savard, T. K. Christensen, J. Berdeen, E. J. Taylor, S. Boyd, A. Einarsson, and S. L. Talbot. 2014. Comparative population structure of cavity-nesting sea ducks. The Auk 131(2):195-207. doi:10.1642/AUK-13-071.1 [Details] [Full Publication]

Esler, D., B. E. Ballachey, K. A. Trust, S. A. Iverson, J. A. Reed, A. K. Miles, J. D. Henderson, B. W. Wilson, B. R. Woodin, J. J. Stegeman, M. McAdie, and D. M. Mulcahy. 2011. Cytochrome P4501A biomarker indication of the timeline of chronic exposure of Barrow's Goldeneye to residual Exxon Valdez oil. Marine Pollution Bulletin 62:609-614. [Details]

Heard, D. J., D. M. Mulcahy, S. A. Iverson, D. J. Rizzolo, E. C. Greiner, J. S. Hall, H. S. Ip, and D. Esler. 2008. A blood survey of elements, viral antibodies, and hemoparasites in wintering Harlequin Ducks (Histrionicus histrionicus) and Barrow's Goldeneyes (Bucephala islandica). Journal of Wildlife Diseases 44:486-493. [Details] [Full Publication]

Esler, D., T. D. Bowman, C. E. O'Clair, T. A. Dean, and L. L. McDonald. 2000. Densities of Barrow's goldeneyes during winter in Prince William Sound, Alaska in relation to habitat, food, and history of oil contamination. Waterbirds 23:425-431. [Details]

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Mergansers

Common Merganser pair - photo by Brian Uher-Koch, USGS
Common Merganser pair. Photo by Brian Uher-Koch, USGS. Click on image for larger view.

Mergansers are the only sea duck species that forage nearly entirely on fish.  The three species (red-breasted, common, and hooded) are found across North America but in slightly different habitats.  Both common and hooded mergansers are some of the few duck species that nest in tree cavities, whereas red-breasted mergansers nest on the ground and at much higher latitudes than other mergansers.  USGS Alaska Science Center research on mergansers focused on filling knowledge gaps on population delineation, migration, and survival rates of populations. 

Selected Publications:

Peters, J. L., K. A. Bolender, and J. M. Pearce. 2012. Behavioral vs. molecular sources of conflict between nuclear and mitochondrial DNA: the role of male-biased dispersal in a Holarctic sea duck. Molecular Ecology 21:3562-3575. doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2012.05612.x [Details] [Full Publication]

Solovyeva, D. and J. M. Pearce. 2011. Comparative mitochondrial genetics of North American and Eurasian mergansers with an emphasis on the endangered scaly-sided merganser (Mergus squamatus). Conservation Genetics 12:839-844. doi:10.1007/s10592-010-0180-y [Details] [Full Publication]

Pearce, J. M. and M. R. Petersen. 2009. Post-fledging movements of juvenile Common Mergansers (Mergus merganser) in Alaska as inferred by satellite telemetry. Waterbirds 32:133-137. [Details]

Pearce, J. M., D. Zwiefelhofer, and N. Maryanski. 2009. Mechanisms of population heterogeneity among molting Common Mergansers on Kodiak Island, Alaska: Implications for genetic assessments of migratory connectivity. Condor 111:283-293. doi:10.1525/cond.2009.080043 [Details] [Full Publication]

Pearce, J. M., K. G. McCracken, T. K. Christensen, and Y. N. Zhuravlev. 2009. Migratory patterns and population structure among breeding and wintering Red-breasted (Mergus serrator) and Common mergansers (M. merganser). The Auk 126:784-789. doi:10.1525/auk.2009.08182 [Details] [Full Publication]

Pearce, J. M., P. Blums, and M. S. Lindberg. 2008. Site fidelity is an inconsistent determinant in population structure of the Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus): evidence from genetic, mark-recapture, and comparative data. The Auk 125:711-722. doi:10.1525/auk.2008.07154 [Details] [Full Publication]

Pearce, J. M., J. A. Reed, and P. L. Flint. 2005. Geographic variation in survival and migratory tendency among North American Common mergansers. Journal of Field Ornithology 76:109-216. doi:10.1648/0273-8570-76.2.109 [Details] [Full Publication]

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