Pacific Eider: news from Varanger

Still there today!

Tormod Amundsen and Martin Garner

v nigrum


Following its stunning surprise appearance reported HERE. Over a month later and the bird is still present. Seemingly eluding detection during the Gullfest it left its mark in the most bizarre- and for some frustrating way. The now famous King Eider/ Eider VORTEX was enjoyed again by Gullfest goers. Some took photos of Eiders in flight- of course. First Tormod, then Jonnie Fisk discovered amoung their photos (see above) that they had actually taken pictures of the Pacific Eider, Mr V-nigrum. Which kinda means their retina would have picked up the bird- as we used to say “can they tick it on assumed retinal capture?”

It was seen again in harsh conditions this morning -30th March 2014.

Meanwhile here’s some stuff on the occurrence of Pacific Eider off West Greenland and the range in NE Asia as far west as Yana river- presuming the Varanger bird is most likely to have come from the NE Asian population rather than the Alaska one.

Frontiers in Birding

p169: “While investigating the subject of origins and identification of Eiders it became apparent that there was real potential for Pacific Eiders to mix with Northern Eiders off the Canadian Arctic and occasionally abmigrate bringing them into the North Atlantic. Coincidentally, not long after the publication of ‘Norther Eiders in Scotland- are they being missed?’ (Garner and Farrelly 2005) , Bruce Mcatavish found Newfoundland’s first Pacific Eider, mixed in with flocks of wintering Norther Eiders. While it might surprise some, the potential for this stunningly beautiful duck to reach Western Europe is very real.

Pacific Eiders off West Greenland

Speaking about the Eiders occurring in the Davis Straight off w and sw Greenland, Palmer (Handbook of North American Birds Vol 3) writes:

Furthermore both typical and atypical v-nigra have been taken, not breeding: details, including meas., in Schiøler (1926). Perhaps a few v-nigra in the Canadian arctic join flocks of borealis (or even of King Eiders) which fly to molting and wintering localities to sw. Greenland. Schiøler stated that they occur there every winter. Presumably any such progeny would show some v-nigra characters. This assessment is contrast to that of J.C. Phillips (1926), who regarded the birds in question as “merely individual variants and not true Pacific Eiders.”


Boertmann (1994) Birds of Greenland on v-nigrum status there:

“SUBSPECIES: The breeding population in Greenland refers to ssp. borealis. ssp. v-nigrum from northwestern North America is a scarce winter and spring vagrant in West Greenland. Since Salamonsen 1967 it has been recorded on 15th May 1967 (Asvid 1974) and several times since 1972 (Salamonsen unpublished).”



Pacific Eider in NE Asia

from Birds of North America (online) : S. m. v-nigrum Gray, 1856: Pacific Eider. Breeds from Coronation Gulf, Nunavut (east to Jenny Lind I.) west along coasts of Beaufort Sea and Bering Sea, Alaska (Kodiak, Cook Inlet, Glacier Bay), Aleutian Is.; in Asia as far west as Yana River (about 137°E), New Siberian Is., locally around Chukchi Peninsula (west of Chaun Bay and Aion I.), Bering Strait near Diomede Is. and St. Lawrence I., Commander Is. and Kamchatka Peninsula, including disjunct population in ne. Sea of Okhotsk (Tauisk Gulf east to Penzhinskaya Gulf). Winters in ice-free regions around Bering Sea, with both Asian and North American populations probably concentrated in Aleutian-Alaskan Peninsula area (Palmer 1976). Has occurred east to Newfoundland and w. Greenland (Peters and Burleigh 1951,Boertmann 1994) and south to interior Canada (Manitoba: Lake Manitoba, Giroux, near Winnipeg, and Patricia Beach) and central Great Plains (near LeCompton, KS; Mlodinow 1999). Largest subspecies; male typically has black V on chin (sometimes absent, especially birds in Sea of Okhotsk), bill color vivid orange or yellow-orange; frontal lobes narrow and pointed as well as positioned higher, more toward midline of forehead than other races; skull large, resulting in greater distance of eye from bill; feathering in loral region notably rounded at anterior margin (not as wedge-shaped as other races); extensive green on head of male, extending from nape in fine line under eye; adult female plumage typically dark brown.


map from  Laputan Logic 

The  Vortex 

Graham White writes:

“Then out by boat into the Eider Vortex. Now I am not an ‘OMG’ person; it’s a bit cringe-worthy, but, OMG!  Around 25,000 Common and King Eiders flying past, over and behind you is one of THE wildlife spectacles to be found anywhere.  As it turned out, it was even more OMG than usual, as Tormod later spotted a Pacific Eider in his photographs that must have flown by us on the day. I’m still searching through mine!”

Graham White

The Grumpy Ecologist
King Eider Vortex Vardø Varanger Gullfest 2014 Amundsen Biotope

.king eider vortex 2

click on photos to really appreciate what’s going on…


Thanks to Marshall Iliff for extra info

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