The Steller’s Eider, who has spent the winter steadily in Estonia during the previous decades, is one of the most threatened bird species in the world. The disappearance of Steller’s Eider as a species is caused by increasingly rising human activity in the bird’s habitats. The Steller’s Eider is especially threatened by oil spills which have a magnified effect on the Steller’s Eiders as the latter are exceptionally social. For example, flocks of up to several thousands of Steller’s Eiders have been spotted repeatedly.
Besides Estonia, the Steller’s Eider nests on the area between the Yamal Peninsula and Kolyma Delta and in the western and northern parts of Alaska. The Steller’s Eider is exceptionally social. On the contrary to Eiders and King Eiders, the Steller’s Eiders spend the winter as tight flocks, which is probably caused by specialised use habitats and feeding traditions. The population of the Steller’s Eider population who spends the winter in Europe was estimated at 30,000–50,000 birds in 1990–1995. This population was mainly divided between the two main regions – the Baltic Sea and the Barents Sea. The White Sea is another important wintering area with more than 4,000 birds counted. Recent censuses show the decrease of the Steller’s Eider population.
Most of the Steller’s Eiders wintering in the Baltic Sea stay at the Estonian coastal waters. Flocks of 100–300 birds have been regularly reported since 1975. The estimated population of 3000–5000 birds in 1991–1996 has decreased to current 1500–2000 birds.
In Estonia, the Steller’s Eiders mostly winter in two places in the northwestern part of Saaremaa. In most populous years up to two and a half thousand birds were reported, however, the population has fluctuated between 500 and 1000 birds in the previous five years.
A third important wintering place seldom hosts large flocks of Steller’s Eiders, but censuses in the recent years have shown a population of 300–500.
The wintering areas of Hiiumaa are of minor significance. 15 to 30 Steller’s Eiders have been counted there.
Steller`s Eider watching tour
We will organise for you a Steller’s Eider watching tour in Saaremaa with the length of one day or two days or even the whole weekend, if you wish. The best time for it is in January and February, however, there are chances to see the bird in March and in the beginning of April.
It is possible to see the Steller’s Eider on our spring migration trip in April, however, with a lesser probability than in the winter.