Canadian Eiders in the North Sea

by 

Norman D. van Swelm 

 

 
Charles Vaurie

(The Birds of The Palaearctic Fauna, Non-Passeriformes, 1965)

 wrote on Somateria mollissima borealis: 'Platypus borealis' C.L.Brehm, 1824, Lehrb. Naturgesch. aller europ. Vögel, 2, p. 813, coasts of Baffin Bay and Davis Strait and west coast of Greenland.


 

01-Northern Canada Eider S.m.borealis male 6th January 2003 1 sail visible Brouwersdam, The Netherlands:

01-Northern Canada Eider S.m.borealis male 6th January 2003 1 sail visible Brouwersdam, The Netherlands


Canadian Eiders in the North Sea

Charles Vaurie: Similar to nominate mollissima but the adult male differs from the latter by the colour of the bill which is orange or yellowish, rather than greenish yellow, and by having a white lateral lobe somewhat shorter, usually not reaching or projecting beyond the posterior border of the nostril as in nominate mollissima. The female is slightly more reddish, and the wing and bill average shorter than in typical nominate mollissima from Scandinavia.

Range: North-eastern North America on Ellesmere, Cornwallis, and Somerset islands, south to Baffin and Southampton islands and Ungava Bay in northern Labrador, coasts of Greenland, Iceland, Jan Mayen, Bear Island, Spitsbergen, and the southern islands of Franz Josef Land. Winters on the coasts of south-western Greenland and eastern Labrador south to Nova Scotia, occasionally to Maine, and rarely to Massachusetts and Connecticut.

NDvS: Without further explanation Vaurie thus expanded the breeding range of borealis as described by Brehm to as far east as Franz Josef Land! The only reason one can think of is that Vaurie believed that the breeding males from Greenland to further east have orange or yellowish bills, but have they? In any case the male breeding Eiders from Spitsbergen have greenish and not orange or yellowish bills (various sources and photo's)! Even the few known pictures of breeding males from western Greenland don't show orange or yellowish bills. So one wonders if Brehm's description is not closer to the truth than Vaurie's. Garner & Farrelly (CLICK TO SEE:

http://www.ornithomedia.com/pratique/identif/ident_art52_1.htm      OR: http://www.birdsireland.com/pages/site_pages/features/eider/eider.html)

discovered that arctic Eiders can show 'sails' which they describe as 'two stiffer, modified long scapulars'. According to Garner & Farrelly these 'sails' are 'not easily discernible on skins'. In fact they are not easily discernible on live birds as well! On most pictures we have seen of arctic Eiders there is not a 'sail' in sight! Garner & Farrelly also noticed that male Eiders east of Greenland have greenish not orange bills hence they figure there must be a cline from east to west where green bills eventually become orange. They even go so far that a claimed borealis in Britain and Ireland 'must show obvious presence of white sails' and therefore making the bill colour of secondary importance. Yet it was the colour of the bill which made Brehm, Vaurie and others decide to give borealis a status of it's own! The discovery of the presence of 'sails' in northern Eiders by Garner & Farrelly is of course very interesting and their confusion over the bill colour caused by Vaurie understandable however claiming a cline from east to west may not be the answer. Given the geological and climatological history of the area, it seems more appropriate to separate the green bills from the orange bills. So I propose to re-acknowledge the northeast Canadian orange-billed (male) Eiders as borealis : the Canadian Eider and the green-billed arctic Eiders as arctica : the Greenland Eider!

 

 

  

 

  

  

 

 
02-Northern Canada Eider S.m.borealis male 6th January 2003 Brouwersdam, The Netherlands:

02-Northern Canada Eider S.m.borealis male 6th January 2003 Brouwersdam, The Netherlands

 

 

Occasionally Canadian Eiders are seen in the North Sea, in particular during winters with long spells of westerly or north-westerly winds over the Atlantic such as the present winter of 2006-2007. Canadian Eiders are easily separated from the local nominate race by their orange-bills. As for 'sails', only one picture of the male I found along the Dutch coast in January 2003 shows one 'sail'. The male I found on 27th January 2007 never raised it's 'sails' while I was present. It's mate is very 'gingery' in line with Vaurie's description of female borealis and quite similar to the female with 'sails' in the pictures from Ireland.


 

 

     In response to my pictures Ron Pittaway & Jean Iron
   from Toronto, Ontario commented as follows in a message to ID Frontiers:

To: <BIRDWG01@LISTSERV.ARIZONA.EDU>
Sent: Thursday, February 01, 2007 10:29 PM
Subject: Re: [BIRDWG01] Canadian Eiders

We sent this e-mail to Norman a few days ago. It's slightly changed below.

The male Common Eiders labelled subspecies 'borealis' on Norman's website (copied below) under numbers 4, 5, 6 wouldn't pass for 'borealis' in Canada. Borealis has bill processes terminating in sharp points. Birds 4, 5, 6 are a better fit for the subspecies 'dresseri' (or intergrades) which has bare frontal bill processes with rounded ends. In North America, borealis is the North Atlantic/Eastern Arctic subspecies and dresseri is the South Atlantic subspecies. Adult males of both subspecies in spring have orange-yellow bills, otherwise varying from grey to green. There is intergradation where their ranges meet. The left birds in photos 1 and 3 are more typical borealis, but they may not be.

The Hudson Bay subspecies 'sedentaria' is very similar to dresseri. Its bill processes are a little narrower and the females average much greyer than dresseri. Sedentaria is basically nonmigratory staying year round in Hudson Bay and wintering in polynyas. There are few records (including specimen) for southern Ontario, but it rarely wanders.
--------------------------
Bruce Mactavish from St.Johns in Newfoundland kindly send me a photograph of Canadian Eiders he made near Cape Spear. Most males are typical S.m.borealis but a few show frontal bill processes with rounded ends perhaps the result
of interbreeding with S.m.dresseri.
--------------------------
Fine pictures by Garth McElroy showing S.m. dresseri
can be seen on feathered photo's at

> http://www.roysephotos.com/CommonEider.html

Acknowledgements: Bruce Mactavish, Jean Iron, Ron Pittaway.

 

03-Northern Canada Eider S.m.borealis male 6th January 2003                              Brouwersdam, The Netherlands:

03-Northern Canada Eider S.m.borealis male 6th January 2003  Brouwersdam, The Netherlands                                                                                      Brouwersdam, The Netherlands


04-Atlantic Canada Eider S.m.dresseri male 27th January 2007                           Brouwersdam, The Netherlands:

04-Atlantic Canada Eider S.m.dresseri male 27th January 2007  Brouwersdam, The Netherlands:


05-Atlantic Canada Eider S.m.dresseri male 27th January 2007                             Brouwersdam, The Netherlands:

05-Atlantic Canada Eider S.m.dresseri male 27th January 2007  Brouwersdam, The Netherlands:


06-Atlantic Canada Eider S.m.dresseri male 27th January 2007                                Brouwersdam, The Netherlands:

06-Atlantic Canada Eider S.m.dresseri male 27th January 2007  Brouwersdam, The Netherlands:


07-Eider nominate S.m.mollissima female Brouwersdam, The Netherlands:

07-Eider nominate S.m.mollissima female Brouwersdam, The Netherlands:


08-Northern Canada Eider S.m.borealis female 27th January 2007                   Brouwersdam, The Netherlands:

08-Northern Canada Eider S.m.borealis female 27th January 2007  Brouwersdam, The Netherlands:



Canadian Eiders S.m.borealis 13032005 Cape Spear,New Foundland 5c Bruce Mactavish

Canadian Eiders S.m.borealis 13032005 Cape Spear, New Foundland

Bruce Mactavish


Canadian Eiders S.m.borealis 13032005 Cape Spear,New Foundland 8c Bruce Mactavish

Canadian Eiders S.m.borealis 13032005 Cape Spear, New Foundland

Bruce Mactavish


Canadian Eider S.m.borealis and S.m.dresseri (middle)13032005 9 Cape Spear,New Foundland Bruce Mactavish

Canadian Eider S.m.borealis and S.m.dresseri (middle)13032005 Cape Spear, New Foundland

 Bruce Mactavish


Canadian Eiders S.m.borealis 13032005 Cape Spear,New Foundland 0c Bruce Mactavish

Canadian Eiders S.m.borealis 13032005 Cape Spear, New Foundland

Bruce Mactavish


Canadian Eiders S.m.borealis 13032005 Cape Spear,New Foundland 1c Bruce Mactavish

Canadian Eiders S.m.borealis 13032005 Cape Spear, New Foundland

Bruce Mactavish


Canadian Eiders S.m.borealis 13032005 Cape Spear,New Foundland 2c Bruce Mactavish

Canadian Eiders S.m.borealis 13032005 Cape Spear, New Foundland

Bruce Mactavish


Canadian Eiders S.m.borealis 13032005 Cape Spear,New Foundland 3c Bruce Mactavish

 Canadian Eiders S.m.borealis 13032005 Cape Spear, New Foundland

Bruce Mactavish


Canadian Eiders S.m.borealis 13032005 Cape Spear,New Foundland 4c Bruce Mactavish

Canadian Eiders S.m.borealis 13032005 Cape Spear, New Foundland

Bruce Mactavish



European Eider S.m.mollissima ad male 260207  waterfowl collection

European Eider S.m.mollissima ad male 260207 waterfowl collection


European Eider S.m.mollissima ad male 26022007  waterfowl collection

European Eider S.m.mollissima ad male 26022007 waterfowl collection


European Eider male 'coo-ing'  14032006 Brouwersdam

European Eider male 'coo-ing' 14032006 Brouwersdam



European Eider S.m.mollissima male 06032009 Stellendam, The Netherlands; perhaps right wing damaged by seal.jpg
European Eider S.m.mollissima male 06032009 Stellendam, The Netherlands;
 perhaps right wing damaged by seal
European Eider S.m.mollissima male 06032009 Stellendam,The Netherlands.jpg
European Eider S.m.mollissima male 06032009 Stellendam, The Netherlands

Eider S.m.mollissima female 24032009 Rotterdam,The Netherlands.jpg
Eider S.m.mollissima female 24032009 Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Eider S.m.mollissima male 24032009 Rotterdam,The Netherlands.jpg
Eider S.m.mollissima male 24032009 Rotterdam, The Netherlands


Eider Somateria m.mollissima male head 25032009 Brouwersdam,The Netherlands.jpg
Eider Somateria m.mollissima male head 25032009 Brouwersdam, The Netherlands

All pictures by Norman Deans van Swelm, unless mentioned otherwise.

copyright remains with the photographers


 
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