King Eiders in Britain and Ireland in 1958-90: occurrences and ageing

Published on 01 September 1994 in Main articles

he King Eider Somateria spectabilis is a widespread breeder across most of the High Arctic coastline and islands of the Holarctic, but is largely absent from Iceland, southern Greenland and arctic Scandinavia. The population from western Siberia and adjacent islands winters from the White Sea to arctic Norway, occasionally to the northern Baltic, South of this area, King Eiders are rare (Madge & Burn 1988). Within Britain and Ireland, the King Eider is a rare but regular visitor. The majority of records have been in the Shetland, Highland and Grampian regions, though individuals have been seen recently as far south as Cornwall. In almost every case, King Eiders have associated with flocks of Common Eiders S, mollissima and remained with these flocks over the years. For the purposes of mis paper, it is necessary, merefore, to look at the distribution of Common Eider populations around the coast. This paper attempts to reassess the occurrences and numbers of King Eiders in Britain and Ireland during 1958-90, based on the distribution of Common Eider populations. We consider that the minimum number of different individuals estimated here is a more realistic total than mat of 153 published in ‘Rare Birds in Great Britain in 1990’ (Brit. Birds 84: 463).Common Eider populations In Britain and Ireland, Common Eiders are at the southern edge of their European range and are relatively sedentary (Cramp & Simmons 1977; Owen et al 1986), In summer, they are distributed around die coast mainly north of a line from Northumberland

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